Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whew, we made it

A two-hour trip...usually. It took us something like four, and what makes it especially crazy is that the last hour and a half went about as normal. The first what should have been about 30 minutes was what dragged out for five times as long. We were going 5-10 mph from Dillon up to the tunnel that's at the Continental Divide in three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic. I can remember being excited when we got up to 15, because at least it meant we might get down to Denver today... It really wasn't dangerous driving--no one was driving fast enough to be any real danger to others. The worst (apart from the tediousness of driving so slowly in such congestion) was when we'd get to a stop--then as I started, my tires would invariably fishtail. Now much of I-70 is apparently closed, so I'm glad we got out when we did.

Now there's the matter of trying to get settled back in and unpacked, which always seems to take us longer than I expect it to. It may be a little while before I get back into the swing of writing.
Driving back home

We're heading out as soon as we can get the cars loaded. Roads look a bit uncertain, so we'll be taking it slow.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Gather in the Growing Things"

My latest poem to be published is up now at Dragons, Knights & Angels: "Gather in the Growing Things." This was a poem written specifically for DKA's contest last summer where the theme was Inferno or Paradiso (or both). I'd forgotten about the competition until the day before the deadline, but then I sat down on the floor with my son and wrote this while playing with him (or the rough draft of it anyway). Rather than take an other-worldly, after-death interpretation of the theme, I wanted to approach it as something very much within our own lives (well...still speculative, of course).

This is the last item of the last issue of DKA--as of next week it is merging with The Sword Review to form Mindflights. So I guess my poem is a sort of send-off...or send-onward toward the new zine.

Friday, December 28, 2007

High Altitude Skiing

With Christmas week here, my wife is suddenly seeing a drastic increase in the number of skiers who aren't from high altitude. The base of the ski runs is nearly twice the altitude of Denver (and Fort Collins), but that's not enough of a difference for people to get altitude sick, but for people coming from sea level, 10,000 feet--and 12,000 at the top of the ski lifts--is a pretty extreme change, and their bodies aren't ready for it. Even for me after 3 weeks+ here, my resting heart-rate is still something like 85, and the percentage of oxygen in my blood is 90 percent of normal. So coming from most anywhere outside the Rockies and nearby High Plains...watch out. Use a bit of caution.

Another part of it is that the altitude makes alcohol more potent--they say figure one drink here is like three at sea level. And even without alcohol dehydration is a serious risk up here. So when a bunch of out-of-state college kids show up for a week of skiing and partying...well, you can imagine. Hungover, extremely dehydrated, so sleep-deprived they can hardly handle the free busing, much less the skiing. So if you do get drunk and pass out and fall off a ski lift as the clinic is just about to close on Christmas day, therefore making all the people working be an extra hour late to see their families...well, don't expect sympathy when you get the bill for the head CT scan, the ambulance ride to the hospital, the IV and everything else.

Oh, and if you're a 13-ish year-old boy from Mexico City up here to learn to snowboard...beware. My wife has seen three patients who fit that description with nearly identical injuries just in her short time here. There must be some kind of jinx.

It's cold out today--26 below in some parts of the state, and that's without factoring in wind chill. Not quite as cold here, but I don't think I'll be spending much time outside today.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Skiing

OK, for nearly a month I've been up here surrounded by some of Colorado's premier ski resorts...and haven't been skiing. But yesterday at least I had the chance to do some cross country skiing. I love that type of skiing--it's something I've been doing since I was probably 8 years old. So I'm experienced...but very out of practice. And my entire body is reminding me of that fact now...

It was beautiful though. The center had many trails, enough that even though it was fairly busy, I often felt alone on the trails, which of course is part of the attraction of X-country skiing. This is the first time I've skied somewhere that they groom the same trails for both classic (which I was doing) and skate skis. So that was different. It made for very wide trails. There were many incredible views of the surrounding mountains and more enclosed trails where all I could see were the snow-covered pine trees climbing up or down from where I skied.

So that and other things we did yesterday meant no writing at all for me, but I'm very glad I was able to do some skiing at least.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Merry Spanglish Christmas

If you ever took a Spanish class, chances are you've seen this before...but since it's been a number of years since I'd read it, I found it muy chistoso:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring - ¡Caramba! ¿Qué pasa?

Here's the rest of the poem...one version of it anyway--I can remember several different versions from Spanish classes, some with more Spanish, some less. May the day be merry and peaceful, whether you celebrate it as Christmas or not!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Secret Santa Redux

Just a couple of weeks ago I told on here how my most recent story at Reflection's Edge, "A Winter Solstice Sun," started as a Secret Santa gift for a writer (and artist) in one of my online critiquing groups. Well, this morning I received my gift this year...and this year she'd drawn my name. So I received a lovely picture illustrating that same story, a picture of a tree with just a hint of eyes and a goblin-like creature perched in its branches. She's a great artist (as well as one of the best comedic writers I know), so I was very pleased to get it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Report from the mountains

Not a lot new to report around here. We had some family up for a little while this weekend, which was fun. We drove around a bit, found some historic buildings to tour, enjoyed the views of the mountains. It's strange to be up here, away from a normal schedule. Because my wife has to work on weekends (and holidays) and gets random days off during the week, I really have to pause and think before I remember which day it is. But just one more week to go.

In writing I've been working on getting a few stories submission-ready, and I even finished a rough draft of a brand new story. I've been focusing so much on revising of late that it's become rare to do much new writing, so that was good. I hope to do some more new writing of some sort yet before we head back down the mountains, but I'm debating between two different stories to work on.

That's all for now. Internet is working well at the moment, so I hope to be able to post more frequently over the next few days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Review at The Fix

My review of Caroline Ives Gilman's Aliens of the Heart is up now at The Fix. There are good stories in here, so check it out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shadow Streets

Back on the secure wireless that's what we're supposed to be using--it got fixed last night, so here's hoping it lasts this time...

I have one more story that came out earlier this month that I haven't mentioned in detail yet except to say that it was out, "Shadow Streets" in issue 2 of Staffs & Starships. I'm actually still not completely positive the issue is out--it's listed as an option in the purchasing section of the site, but there's no info on the Sheer Spec main page, and when I try to click on issue 2, I get an access denied message. I'd thought it was supposed to be out at the beginning of December, but maybe there are still some things holding that up.

Anyway, the story's origin: I've mentioned several times about the 1-hour-writes we do in one of my critique groups. In the very first of those, I created the setting of a city with day-time streets and night-time streets, and each would widen and narrow depending on the time of day. I liked the setting (as did those in my critique group), but I didn't see a lot of potential in the story fragment itself, so I just filed it away.

Then later, I had my first story accepted by (now defunct) Jupiter World Press, and the editor asked about the possibility of a sequel. Well, I didn't see anything in a direct sequel, but the characters in the story came from someplace I'd named the "Winged City." So combining that other setting with the few details I had in this story, an idea for a story began to evolve. I don't actually remember the direct impetus that brought the different elements together--I'm pretty sure there was something else, perhaps a prompt for the monthly challenge at another critique site. But that's the general idea of where it came from, and the result is the story of a resident of those night-time streets who has become trapped in the day-time city, a very different, and to her frightening place that she longs to escape.

So, whether the story is available now or not...I hope you can get a chance soon to buy a copy of the magazine and read it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Silk Betrayal

Well, our internet continues to be spotty and ridiculously slow. And the people in charge of the one we were supposed to be able to get on here aren't promising anything, in fact saying it's pretty unlikely it'll be fixed while we're here.

A nice thing about that is that I'm actually getting a lot of work done on my writing. I realize how much time I spend checking out different things online--not all of it a waste of time by any means, as I'm researching markets and learning more about the field and finding new approaches to writing specific scenes or whatever, but still it's probably good to get this chance to really get a lot done.

And the big thing I've gotten done is this round of revisions on my novel project. I'm very excited about this one. There are still things I need to do, of course. I have several pages of notes I jotted down as I went through of things that require double-checking, further development, and such things. My hope is to get through a lot of that list over the last two weeks we have here, and then I'll set the novel aside for a little while before coming back to it. Not long though--hopefully by early spring (or even sooner) I'll be looking for an agent for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nemonymous revealed

Still no reliable internet, but again I'm sneaking in on a weak, but no-password-required signal from one of the other nearby rental properties. Let's hope it lasts long enough to post this... (added at the end: lost it halfway through, but it seems to be back now)

A couple of days ago, Des Lewis finally revealed the connections between authors and stories. So you can now know that "Word Doctor" was the story I contributed to the anthology. Typically I've been discussing the origins of stories as they are published (and I still have one recent story I need to do that for), but I couldn't do this six months ago without revealing which story I'd written. The idea actually came as a thought for a poem, the image of a craftsman (/woman--I hadn't decided yet) whose job is to fix broken words. And then in one of our 1-hour quick writes, the topic involved a package that arrives at the door of the main character. So I combined that with the image I already had...and this story developed from there.

In various reviews of the anthology, the story received generally positive comments, a straight-forward allegory (that was positive in that particular review), a gem, an ode to language (or something like that). So I've been very happy with that. And along with Sporty Spec, it makes two anthologies where my story was the final one--so that's fun.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Internet down again

Well, our condo rental's wireless has been down again since my last post. I did briefly manage to get online yesterday, sneaking in through a nearby, no-password-required server...but that one rarely has a good enough signal to allow us access. I'm at another house for the moment and able to briefly get online. They tell us the internet will be back up soon...so we'll see.

Nothing terribly exciting been happening out here...except for the few feet of snow we've had over the past few days. Today is clear, though, so I'm getting errands done. Hope all is well out there, and I hope to resume blogging regularly once our promised wireless is repaired.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Confessions of a Library Junkie

I'm a library person. I love books and have many at our house, but usually when I buy a book it's because I've already read it and want to be able to reread it or skim passages or simply look and remember what I thought about a given book. That's not always the case, but frequently.

The problem with buying a new book is that I'm always visiting the library and discovering more previously unread books that I want to read than I'll ever have time for. And that deadline hanging over the book makes it more likely I'll pick it up instead of one I own, which has no deadline.

So coming up here is my incentive to read some of the books that have been lying unread, or books I've wanted to reread but haven't gotten around to. I have a bag full of books. Fantasy and SF, mainstream, short stories. All fiction, I realize--no nonfiction or poetry.

But...

Within 15 hours of arriving here, I'd already discovered the local library and gotten myself a library card. I'm being good so far--I have a few things out, but I've been mostly reading the books I brought with. Fortunately the library is small, so in the brief time I skimmed the library, I didn't see a tone of the books that are high on my to-read list. I am hoping to get my bag of books read though.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Winter Solstice Sun

Number two as I say a few words about the stories I've just had published. This one has a fun history of sorts. A year ago, one writing community I'm part of held a Secret Santa thing where we could write a flash fiction or a scene or poem or whatever or draw a picture, etc. as a gift for another person--not that then the work belonged to the other person, but that then they received an exclusive read of it.

So that's the most immediate source of this story, written for a writer and artist in Finland (which explains the name of the character, Puu, which is Finnish for 'tree').

So within that context, the other source was an article at Strange Horizons last year about ancient winter traditions, some of which our own Christmas and other traditions draw on...and some not. So that provided the inspiration for the fun little seasonal story, which you can now read at Reflection's Edge, a story of Puu, the walking tree from the land of no winter sun who longs for a glimpse of that light on the winter solstice.

Hmmm, now I have to think of what I should be writing this year as a Secret Santa gift...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Sinterklaas Day!


Hope you don't get coal in your wooden shoe!

(Here's what I'm talking about, including why it's controversial--something that's worth paying attention to. I should have posted this earlier in the evening, I suppose, though at least this is easily in time for any Belgians living in the Rocky Mountain Time Zone...)
The People of the Growing Moon

All right, time to start commenting about some of the stories I have out now, starting with this one, from Curious Volumes Publishing.

Nice cover here--fittingly implying cave paintings as it does. The story was already published in print by Spinning Whorl, so I probably explained a bit of its origins at the time. But for new readers to the blog, here's a bit of how it came about. It's actually one of my earlier stories, though it went through a significant rewrite (in fact, completely tearing the story apart and putting it together in a different way) immediately before I sent it to Spinning Whorl.

At the time of the initial writing I was working on my first novel manuscript, and one of the characters is always aware of the phase of the moon, because it's his one connection to his mother's people. So I had to research and figure out exactly how the moon changes throughout its cycle...and that research created a single image in my mind, that of a people who live exactly for half the moon's phase and know that they will die once the moon reaches full. And yet they worship the moon and celebrate each night that brings them more time to enjoy the moon. (Given their short lifespan, each 24-hour period seems like much longer than it would seem to us, so they have numerous periods of sleeping and waking within each day.)

That image lingered in my mind for a while, though I wasn't sure how to use it...until I came up with their opposites, their shadows in Jungian terms, those who live during the waning cycle of the moon. That's when the story was born. So, go check it out if you want to see what happens from there.
Internet is back up!

It's still sometimes spotty, disconnecting unexpectedly, but now I can at least post a pair of pictures. Here's the view from the porch of our condo:

Before you get too jealous, though, keep in mind that this is a one-bedroom place for two adults and a 3-year-old...

I expect I'll have quite a few blog posts over the next few days, so keep visiting!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lack of promised internet + a handful of stories published

Here we are at 9,000 feet with beautiful views of the mountains. The trip up was no problem. Unfortunately, the promised wireless internet is done until Friday or so. So once that's up, I'll start posting pictures and other reports of our adventures.

In the meantime, please check out some of the stories of mine that have just come online within the past few days--especially the reprint (from the now-defunct print zine Spinning Whorl) of "People of the Growing Moon" at Curious Volumes Publishing. It has some very cool cover art too. When I originally sent it in, the editor was hoping for a full anthology of moon-related stories. Unfortunately that didn't happen, but you can still get that story by itself, or check out some of the other stories available there.

I'll have to wait until I have better internet to post anything more specific about the other stories, but you can check them out for yourself through the links at the right at Reflection's Edge and Staffs & Starships.

I'll have a poem coming out shortly as well, so stay tuned for that.

Until...???

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Heading out

Well, once again the frantic preparations for going up into the mountains have kept me from blogging as much as I'd like. We're heading out shortly to spend a month in a ski-resort town...but I'm not sure how much skiing I'll actually be doing. I grew up doing lots of cross country skiing, but have never downhilled, plus I'll be taking care of my son while my wife works at the ski-injuries and high-altitude clinic.

I should have normal internet access up there, since the place supposedly has free wireless. So I hope to keep everything up to date here (with my new laptop!). I do have a handful of stories and a poem that should be coming out within the next few days, so I'll mention those as they become available.

So stay tuned (and wish us luck driving, as there was just a significant snowstorm yesterday in the area where we'll be going).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Laptop

Well, I have a new computer--jumping from a desktop that ran Windows ME to a brand new Vista-running laptop is a bit of a change. From things I've heard, I would have chosen XP if I could have, (or maybe even a Mac, though I don't think my wife would have gone for that) but that wasn't an option at the store, and we needed to buy it immediately and turn the receipt in to my wife's work. So here I am, getting all the settings how I like them and playing around with it instead of writing.

Or instead of packing rather, since we leave shortly, but more on that in a later post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More narrative playfulness

Continuing on various earlier posts that I'm too lazy to find and link to now, I've found a couple more projects that are playing around with narrative in ways that I like.

First is Jeremy Tolbert's Clockpunk site, which follows the dispatches of a steampunk naturalist as he explores the strange creatures who inhabit the City he lives in. It includes the great photographs of these creatures and whimsical accounts from the naturalist himself, Dr. Julius T. Roundbottom. Funny thing is, I'd stumbled across the site a day or two ago without realizing Jeremy (who, if you missed that post, I recently discovered lives a couple miles away from me) was the one doing it and then this morning saw the interview with him about the project over at Fantasy.

The other is Invisible Games, which is created by CMV and DMZ (CMV is Catherynne Valente...but I'm not sure who DMZ is). This project is full of the accounts of various games that supposedly took place in the past. It also has a steampunk feel to it, more so in some entries than others, and it plays on the nature of games...and I love games. I'm not much of a video gamer (partly because I know that if I let myself, I'd quickly become addicted to them), but games were a big part of my work at various camps and in experiential educations, and that has leaked into my writing as well (in fact, one of the first poems I did years ago was called "LifeGame"--not at all based on the Game of Life, though). And that doesn't even mention all the piles of board games we have in the basement and all the hours I've spent playing things from Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne to UpWords and Boggle. Anyway, the project creates some wonderful games and game machines and uses them as you might expect Calvino to use games.

One thing I love about these kinds of projects, and especially Clockpunk of these two, is the way they immerse you in a different world--they're not trying to tell a story in the same way secondary-world fantasies are usually told, but they're simply assuming you're there with them and have the patience to explore the whimsical bits along with them. There's a sense that these bits will coalesce into more of a story, but it requires, or rather assumes a kind of patience that I don't find trying at all.

In a way both of these remind me a bit of Nick Bantock's Museum of Purgatory, a book whose concept I loved, and its individual parts included a lot of fun...though I found the overarching story that developed to be less successful.

Sort of related, I picked up a copy of Shaun Tan's The Arrival from the library the other day, and I found it as good as all the hype. I hadn't quite realized how whimsical it would be, so that in itself is a lot of fun. And the immigrant's story itself is powerful.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bar Book Club for November

Time once again to report on the doings of our monthly (or so) book club that meets in a local microbrewery. Beer of choice: no single one dominated, but I had Existential Porter, a very dark beer that I often choose, though several of the other guys find it too sweet.

Our book: Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders With America's Illegal Migrants. It was a fascinating book, a nonfiction account that was originally published in 1987 and recently reissued with a new forward. I've made no secret of the fact that I consider the arguments of Coloradan politician Tom Tancredo to be pure racism--his rhetoric and that of others of his ilk is all about playing on racist fears, some of it conscious but given the number of people supporting such extreme views, I have to believe a lot of it is subconscious. And that's when it's most dangerous, when we don't think we're being racist but there's an unacknowledged foundation that these ideas build on.

I'm not saying that all who advocate for immigration reform are racist, but at least the rhetoric being used should give us pause before suggesting what to do.

We had some good discussions on the book. Some of it's dated--today there are many more undocumented workers who aren't involved in agriculture at all, and there are many more women who come across as well. But the underlying images, the stories of these workers and their families back home are powerful, even twenty years later. Even with the time that has passed, we ended up agreeing that the book makes it pretty clear a fence on the border is pure silliness. And we also agreed that the public debate too often offers only very limited and opposite positions, where what seems needed is either in between or some sort of third option that's neither end.

Here's a quote from the afterword:
Like most previous waves of immigration, Mexican immigration leaves some citizens worried that there are becoming too many of "them," and not enough of "us," that we as a nation may drown in the tide of foreignness. But if there is any truism about immigration to America, it is that "they" soon become "us"... This is as true today as it was in the early 1920s, or during the previous century.
That matches my experience as a grandchild (and son-in-law) of immigrants from the Netherlands, of growing up in an agricultural community that attracted many migrants (and working side-by-side with them in the onion fields and Christmas tree fields), and in studying the issue in college and getting to know those in the Hispanic community around there.

So anyway, enough of a lecture. Our next book is a John Irving book, The Water Method Man. Probably not until mid-January.
Sporty Spec arrived!

Actually, it arrived right before Thanksgiving, but I wanted to wait at least until I'd read a few of the stories. This is the first time I'm in a publication where I've had interactions (here and elsewhere) with a number of the other contributors--I've had a couple of times where I'd met online one or two others, but this time the number is a half a dozen or so. So I made sure I read all those stories, and I enjoyed them all. Only negative to the anthology is that Lulu goes way overboard with the packaging for the book. How many extra trees must we cut down in addition to those needed for the book itself? But that has no bearing on the quality of the stories and poems, which so far have been very high.

I'll say it again, this is a very fun anthology with lots of short pieces that should appeal to many people. Add it to your Christmas list!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grey Cup

Congrats to Saskatchewan Rough Riders in beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

My college had a high proportion of Canadians in the student body, so our on-campus TV offerings always included CBC. I remember the ads for the Grey Cup one year especially when the announcer stating in his most apocalyptic voice about how the Grey Cup every year was "the day Canada stands still." Most of the Canadians I knew cared exactly as much as most of the USians--not at all. We had CBC when we moved to Dearborn as well, though, and I miss This Hour has 22 Minutes.
In a rejection yesterday...

I was chided for overusing sentences that begin with a conjunction. And I would never do something like that. Or at least not often. But sometimes it seems to fit the voice of a piece in my head to do so.

In all seriousness, it's quite possible I did overuse it in this piece, so I'm glad the editor pointed it out. There are times when the voice I have in my head seems to clamor for conjunctions, and at times those are just right. I have occasionally run into fellow writers who are so conditioned by the academic-writing style that frowns on conjunctions, so they argue you should never do so in fiction either. That's silly. It's a rule as divorced from natural writing as the rules against not ending a sentence in a preposition or not splitting an infinitive. Sometimes a conjunction is exactly right at the start of a sentence. But...sometimes I have in the past overdone that, so now I'll have to see if I did the same here in this story.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving

We spent the evening at friends' house and enjoyed ourselves. Despite the fact that it turned out all the guys there were Michigan expatriates who had watched the Lions lose earlier in the day... And to those Canadians who celebrated almost two months ago and others who don't have a Thanksgiving at all, well I hope it was a happy Thursday regardless.

And now...


Resist the impulse-buying consumerism of the day after Thanksgiving. I'm not some extremist who will chide you for purchasing gas or even for realizing that there really is a good deal for an item that you genuinely need. In fact I'm debating purchasing something from Amazon myself, trying to decide the best timing for getting it delivered since we'll be gone for most of the month of December. But do pause and make sure it's something you do need, that you're not just buying into mindless materialism. Take the time to swing by Adbusters's Buy Nothing Day site (and the rest of their site--I especially love the spoof ads). And while you're at it, here's my somewhat Adbuster's inspired story, "The Sports Fable Press," which appeared in Noneuclidean Café last spring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From air to snow

Monday was air-conditioning-in-the-car weather. This morning I shoveled 3 or so inches of snow off our driveway. Hmm.

Actually I love snow, so no complaints here. Give me some cross country skis and a stretch of trails (something I haven't done for a few winters), and I'm thrilled. And apart from last year's anomalous blizzard that kept us buried for a month and a half, snow in this part of Colorado doesn't last long enough for people to become tired of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The cachet of being a dissenter

I'm fascinated with how people interact with each other. This certainly traces back to my work in outdoor education where a big portion of the experience was in participants becoming aware of such things...and an even bigger part of the facilitator's job was to notice the group dynamics and adjust the experiences based on what we saw. It was intriguing to see how completely different the approaches of two different groups might be to a given problem. And then to structure later challenges based on what we'd seen.

So sometimes I like to just observe things going on online and think of them in the same terms, the same frame of mind. And if you want especially childish behavior, check out sports articles that allow for comments, like those on Foxsports. There's plenty of other childishness around as well, of course, including in the spec fic communities. But it isn't really childishness I wanted to blog about today.

What I'm finding entertaining at the moment is how proudly some people single themselves out as having a different opinion. "Well, I guess I'll be the lone voice saying..." "Looks like I'm the dissenting voice..." "I suppose my preferences are different then..."

That's great--much better than sycophantism or taking pride in conforming. But what really had me laughing yesterday or the day before was a discussion where people were debating a certain aspect of writing. A number of people started speaking their preference for one side until someone came along and mentioned that they'd be a dissenting voice and argue the other way. A bunch of people then piled on in support of this person...to the point that a page or more of comments later, someone jumped in as the lone voice of dissension to argue on the side of the original preferences (apparently unaware of all those who'd already agreed...). Each of the two seemed to take almost a martyr's tone with their reply. And the dynamics that followed of what others had to say were great fun from an observer's seat.

Now with some things it does take genuine courage to speak a dissenting view, and I'm proud of those who do. But to claim the martyr's mantle in a topic like this was simply comical.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A non-writing weekend

That's not 100% true, as I did a bit of writing yesterday, but for the most part that's what the weekend was. Our big excitement of the weekend was getting my son into a big bed. He'd still been in his crib, and he wasn't climbing out or anything, but still it was time to switch. So he had fun helping take everything out of his room, including the pieces of the crib...and then I got to put the entire bunk bed together. Actually, I do like putting things like that together--I love things that come with "some assembly required" printed on the box because it's like a sort of puzzle. So I didn't mind--it was just time-consuming. And there's still plenty more to do before his room is fully set up.

The other thing we did was go to an auction for Habitat for Humanity. My sister-in-law has been working for them for the past year as part of Americorps (and I think will continue working for them part-time now that her year commitment is up, at least until her baby is born). The auction was a lot of fun--I got outbid on everything I tried to bid on, but it was just the atmosphere that was good. The auctioneer kept it very entertaining.

Also on the topic of Habitat, I've agreed to translate a few things for them into Spanish, so that's taking up some of my writing time as well. But again, it's fun--in fact this also has a bit of the puzzle to it, and I do love a good puzzle. But hopefully I'll be able to get back to more writing shortly. Or more revising rather.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Homage vs. Pastiche?

Where would you draw the line between these two? When does an homage to a particular writer/style/work become simply a pastiche?

Part of this comes from my thinking about the Boskrea stories, which some of you know. They're all unpublished so far, but those in a critique group with me should recognize them. From the beginning one of my main goals with these stories was to challenge myself, to experiment with a variety of ways of telling a story. Part of that has included some self-aware patterning after certain Borges stories or Lovecraft or Calvino. Not all the stories fit that mold, but it's something that's come up various times. If any of those crosses the line from homage to pastiche, it's probably the Lovecraft one--I probably have enough distance from it now I should reread it and see.

But now I'm playing with the idea of another, except this time instead of it harkening to any particular writer, it'll be a nod toward a certain non-Western work that's sort of a genre to itself. But a part of me worries about simply co-opting the form. As I see it there are two major pitfalls to avoid. The first is simply transplanting the work as close as possible into my Boskrea setting. In one sense that's faithful to the original work, the original intent...but the lack of creativity will show that it's merely a superficial resemblance. The other pitfall is to simply take a vague impression of the original and then plow on ahead with my Western eyes. It's a way of colonizing the unfamiliar, and artistically (as well as ethically) it seems just as bankrupt. So I guess I'm trying to understand the work better, to get down underneath it and know more than just its surface. The story that results will probably have some superficial resemblance as well as some jarring differences, but I hope that underneath it's a respectful homage to that other work.

We'll see (I'm still not focusing at all on creating new things, so I'm not sure even when I might get around to this). But I'd love to hear any other thoughts on this--homage vs. pastiche, broadening the sources of fantasy (etc.) vs. co-opting and colonizing them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nice things in the mailbox

I opened my mailbox yesterday and saw not one but two manila envelopes with books inside. I love getting new things in the mail like that. I was hoping one might be Sporty Spec, but not yet--I still have that to look forward to soon. One was a collection for review, so that's a little less exciting since it carries an obligation with it, but really one of the reasons I like to review is to get the copies of things I otherwise might not have picked up.

The other is the result of the book giveaway from Matthew Hughes, which I posted about a month or two ago. I was very excited to get a limited edition (#8 of 125) copy of "The Farouche Assemblage," published by Payseur & Schmidt. I've seen various references to this publisher as highly respected for its book design, and this definitely fits that bill. I look forward to reading it. By the way, according to his website, the collection of Guth Bander stories is now published by Robert Sawyer Books.

Speaking of reviews, I did have a recent review of mine posted at The Fix for the anthology Bandersnatch. I feel like I didn't enjoy this one as much as I was expecting to, though I'm willing to wonder if a part of that was that they sent me an electronic copy instead of a hard copy. But not all, I'm sure. There were certainly some good stories, but also a number that felt like they were trying too hard...to be something that just didn't quite jive. For me--always have to put that in there.

Random for this post, but I discovered I'm not the only speculative fiction writer in town recently, and last night had the pleasure to meet up with Jeremy Tolbert, who seems to know everyone in the field.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing Goals

All this NaNo discussing has me thinking about writing goals. I haven't usually gone for specific short term goals, like 1000 words/day or whatever. When I've tried that, it usually hasn't gone well. I end up overly obsessed with the word count (or whatever) and the writing itself suffers. I do, however set a goal of working on my writing every day, and on that I'm pretty consistent. I wonder sometimes, though, if it's just a lazy reaction to the more specific goals. I'm not a glacial-paced writer--in the past 2 1/2 years I've fully revised two novel manuscripts, written a new one and am over halfway through the first revision (should be done by the end of the year), and I've written dozens of stories and poems. But I'm not anywhere near as prolific as some writers either. When I'm in full creating mode, my output varies from probably 500 to 4,000 or more words per day. And I'm revising 2-3 chapters per week lately, sometimes on top of other writing or revising.

I do believe firmly in being a disciplined writer, so at times I think such a specific word count goal might benefit me.

At the moment some writers on one forum have a weekly accountability group where we post a goal for the week ahead and report if we've reached it. I've been doing that for a few months now. At times it's been good, spurring me to stop wasting time and get to work. Other times, I'm afraid it's tempted me to skimp on the work (especially since of late my goal always involves revising a certain number of chapters or short stories), so that I rush through it. That's when a goal becomes a negative thing for me.

Long-term goals are good, though I keep them fluid, and apart from the goal I've had each of the past two years of having a professional sale (only a little over a month left for that...I think I have three stories out at the moment to qualifying places), I try to keep them tied only to what's under my control. So goals that inspire discipline, that's what I want, not goals that draw too much attention to themselves as goals, looming, shadowy monsters waiting for me to trip up...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No NaNo

I feel at the least obligated to mention NaNoWriMo, simply because so many other writers I interact with are doing it. I'm not and haven't ever either. But that's not out of any dislike of the idea. In fact, there are times when I could benefit from doing more to turn off my inner editor and just write like mad. But for each of the past three years (which goes back to when I first learned of NaNo), I was in the middle of something else in November, something that seemed at least equally beneficial to my writing.

This year, of course, it's the revisions that's taking precedence, and revising is something I'm trying to become more diligent about, forcing myself to focus on making a piece its best instead of good enough and running off to the next great idea for a story. Mostly I've been focusing my revisions on my novel project, but occasionally I step away for a couple of days to rework a short story (and there's one short story that's calling for revision but I keep putting off because I know it'll be a lot of work). So anyway, I guess this is my NaNo(&ShoSto)RevMo.

But to all you out there actually doing the crazy writing of NaNo, best of luck!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Doctor Prunesquallor

I'm rereading Titus Groan at the moment, and I just have to point out how much I like the doctor. I can't help but laugh any time he comes onto the scene. His sister also is a big source of humor in the book, though in her case it's humor at her expense. She's so clueless about how sad she is as she tries desperately to get Steerpike's attention. Whereas with the doctor, as annoying as his laugh would likely be in real life, as a character in a book you can tell he's laughing along with you. Though that said, the part that had me laughing the hardest recently was when Cora and Clarice came to visit the Prunesquallors and started talking about why they like roofs...

The BBC production, by necessity misses some of the depth of the story, but I thought they did an excellent job casting both the Prunesquallors. So if you don't feel up for trying your hand at Peake's admittedly dense prose (but lovely!), you can always find your local library's copy of the mini-series and watch that.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Michael Ehart's The Servant of the Manthycore

Another bit of pimping for a friend--Michael Ehart's The Servant of the Manthycore is available for pre-order (it's also available at Amazon) and will be released in about a week It collects several of the stories (which appeared at The Sword Review) as well as an unpublished novella. I've read a number of the stories included, either in draft form in our critiquing group or in their original publication, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the final product.

Wait a second, you say...isn't that Michael Moorcock's name on the cover? Yup--he provided the introduction. How cool is that? So there's your assigned reading for December--get on it.

PS An update--the last time I pimped for a fellow writer it was for my friend Celina and her book The Reckoning of Asphodel. Things seem to be going well for her writing-wise, as she just mentioned a glowing review for the novel. I imagine the link will go up at her blog soon. And plans are moving ahead for the second in the series, and there's probably all kinds of hush-hush discussions about other projects too as she moves ahead on her plans to become the next household name. So if you haven't read that one yet, add it to your December reading as well...or even order it immediately and get it done before Thanksgiving. Before the Lions (gasp!) win...

Another Update: After posting this, I noticed an entire week's worth of interviews with Michael over at Scriptorius Rex.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sporty Spec is available!

I'm very much looking forward to getting my copy of this, and you can order it already now from Lulu. Or if you prefer, wait a couple of weeks and it'll be available from Amazon and other online vendors. There are even launch parties happening in a few weeks, one on the West Coast, one on the East (US, that is, by the way). So if you happen to live there or be traveling there then, you can see the details at the Sporty Spec page.

So now for the origin of this story... It's called "City of Games." I wrote it specifically for the anthology, and its tone is meant to evoke a couple of writers I like: Dunsany, especially some of his stories that are basically travelogues of intriguing places; and Calvino, especially his book Invisible Cities, which was my introduction to him and part of what led to his becoming one of my favorite authors. It was meant to have more of a Dunsany feel, with only touches of Calvino, but in my opinion by the time it was done that was reversed. The other source of this story is something I'd written in my writing notebook (the original "Twigs and Brambles") years ago about a city where laws and policies are decided by a soccer-like game. That same idea led to a much darker, more cynical story about two years ago, a story that I still like but haven't found a home for yet. This is a much more whimsical take on the same germ.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Errr, yeah--Fantasy Magazine

I mentioned about Fantasy's switch to online a little over a month ago, I'd guess, but then I still had in my mind that the switch was a ways off. Nope, it's up and running and has been for a little while, it seems. I was sure the original announcement said after WorldCon, which would mean this is still only the first week, but there are entries from last week as well--perhaps it was their chance to play around with the setup and all before everyone realized things were happening. Or maybe I'd just remembered wrong.

I haven't read any of the stories yet, but I just read the interview with Catherynne Valente. Her new book, the conclusion of the Orphan Tales duology is out this week--I'd just read the first book a couple of weeks ago, and it is certainly among the most memorable I've read this year. I have to admit a twinge of disappointment that it didn't win the World Fantasy Award last weekend...but of course Gene Wolfe is pretty tough competition. I haven't read Soldier of Sidon, so I can't comment more on that.

I guess I assume that most people are well aware of who won the awards--I was pleased that Strange Horizons ran reviews on all five of the nominees for best novel. But in case you missed it (Elliot!) Gene Wolfe won for best novel.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Nemonymous contest

Only about a month away from revealing which story belongs to which writer now in Nemonymous 7, and Des would like to encourage you to remember this contest for guessing how they match up. Even if you don't have a copy (yet), you can always go give it a shot and see how you do on blind luck. The more people who enter, the bigger the final prize is (even though there's no entry fee--he just wants to encourage many participants). I know at least one of you who reads this blog has already figured out which is mine...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Photos of Mars

Call me a geek if you want, but there's something so cool about the these pictures--they may not rival the scenic backgrounds taken here on earth that I download from Webshots (though even among those I have an earlier one taken by one of the rovers), but simply the realization that it was taken on another planet and yet looks so clear--not an artist's rendering but an actual photo taken on Mars. I just find that stunning and exciting at once:

This second one is digitally enhanced, which makes it clearer but a little less like what you'd actually see if you were there:
While we were hiking over the weekend, the son of one of our co-hikers asked his dad if they might climb Mt. Everest some day. Who knows, maybe climbing Olympus Mons will be the big adventure in some future generation.
Kaleidotrope #3

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but keep getting distracted with other things. When I receive a contributor copy of something, there's always a balance I try to maintain between getting the info out that it's available and trying to find time to read some of the other things in the copy to be able to comment on them.

So I've had my copy of this for several weeks now, but things kept conspiring to keep me from reading anything. I read Bruce Holland Rogers's two stories right away as well as your story, Beth (the best, most amazing use of my absolute favorite superlatives...). As of now I've also read the first few stories and poems and quite enjoyed them--there's a bit of meta-fiction that I really liked, some good psychological horror, and a rather light-hearted ghost story among other things. I remember really liking the poetry of #2 but finding the fiction overall not as strong (though with some exceptions), but so far #3 exceeds #2 on that count. So do check it out.

I like to say a bit about the genesis of the stories I get published: this one is a sequel to the story I had in #2, so it shares its origin in a throw-away bit in another story that intrigued me enough to develop the Living Stumps some more. In this case, I'd already written "First Peeling" but it hadn't been accepted yet when a one-hour challenge topic was to devise a courting ritual for an invented society. "Stump Courtship" was the result, though at the time it wasn't all that strong a piece. It was only when "First Peeling" came out in Kaleidotrope #2 that I took that story kernel back out and revised it, polished it up, and sent it out.

In something of a further development, this summer as I was taking a break from my main novel between first draft and revisions, I started playing around with a YA novel that involves one of the Living Stumps. I finished the first half of a rough draft for that before deciding it was more important to focus on the revisions for now, but I do hope to come back to that at some point in the future.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Back from the mountains

OK, I can't blame the recent trip up to Estes for the lack of posts of late, since it was only a couple of days, but getting ready for it did cut out three or so posts I'd meant to do at some point last week and didn't. I'll do my best to get back in the habit of a daily something here now that we are back.

We had a good time up there. My son didn't sleep great, which affected how well he handled everything going on, so that was less fun. But otherwise it was good. Hanging out with my wife's coworkers and their families/significant others/large dogs (...). Hiking--we went on a short trail around one mountain lake with a group of maybe ten or so, and I did a solo hike up the mountain behind our cabin while my son and wife were napping. And we saw tons of elk, including having one meander across the road directly in front of our car. My wife saw big-horn sheep beside the road as we were driving up the canyon too, but she noticed too late for me to see them. And I even got some good revising in while sitting in our cabin--it seems I often have high hopes for doing just that but then don't get anywhere near what I'd planned done, so that was a pleasant development.

That's it--now I'll be unpacking and trying to catch up on sleep for the next few days.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Future of Storytelling?

There's actually nothing terribly profound in this article itself, but reading it did get me thinking about various experiments I've seen in hypertext- and interactive-stories. Slate had an experiment last year that was interesting, but not profound. Farrago's Wainscot has a fascinating one going now--I've enjoyed what I've read of it, though the last time I tried to catch up on everything I'd missed for a couple of months, I got mind-boggingly lost in a labyrinth of cross-links. And Ideomancer also had something similar not so long ago, one that was a bit easier to follow. Oh, and one from a few years back that was set on a train, and you could click on the different passengers to see who each was. I forget the title, something with a number in it, though.

None of those, as interesting as they might be themselves, seems likely to change storytelling. But I am always fascinated with those who are willing to try and see what happens.

The one thing the article did get me thinking about is that all these experiments are basically textual only--the occasional image, but that's all. And I love text, so nothing wrong with that. But I do wonder about other ways to expand it. They create myspace pages for the characters mentioned in the article--I wonder if anyone's tried doing that with a fictional character from a speculative work. I could definitely see that appealing to certain readers. It could even be fun to see an entire pseudo-myspace network made entirely of fictional characters. I mean, will Frodo friend Paul Maud'dib? What message will Steerpike leave on Elric's page? And what kind of music does Ged listen to? (Yes, this is tongue in cheek...and yet, only sort of)
Story accepted by Reflection's Edge

I had another fun little story accepted by Reflection's Edge over the weekend--"A Winter Solstice Sun." It'll either appear in a few days in the November issue, or (especially fitting, given the title) in the December/January issue. I'm looking forward to telling the story of how this one came about once it's out, as it came from two very different sources of inspiration.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My sister-in-law in Washington Post

I just thought this was fun--there's an Ausema featured in an article of the Washington Post. She's an art conservator.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Let's go Rockies!

I'm off to some friends' house to watch part of the game soon (as much as I can watch while also watching my son). Here's hoping it's a better game than the last two...

Today was also the opening of a new park in town, and it was a huge event with scarcely enough parking--in fact the people they had directing parking added a line in the grass where I parked, and later there was another line in the dirt where the grass (or probably actually native ground cover) hasn't yet come up. But it's an amazing park. The playground, which is designed to be largely wheelchair accessible, is incredible, though with the numbers of people there, my son was too overwhelmed to fully appreciate it. It's at the end of one of the bike trails, so we'll be going back later this week when older kids are in school and the weather is warmer.

Also...we went to the library this morning for a special Día de los muertos celebration. That was pretty cool too. I even got to drink some horchata, which I haven't had since college, and melon juice that reminded me of my time in Venezuela (it's not specifically Venezuelan, but Mérida is where I first had something like that).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Any exercise science types or simply avid bikers reading this?

I've been biking a lot recently. I already noticed (and mentioned on this blog) last year when I took out my bike a few times that compared to running, biking is a lot more about muscular endurance and a lot less about cardio-vascular endurance. At least for me it is. Is this how it should be? Am I not getting as good a workout because my heart and lungs aren't feeling as challenged? Though of course muscular endurance is an important part of overall fitness too. Does it depend on the way I bike? I tend to shift to the highest gear that's comfortable--would I get a better overall workout if I left it a gear or two lower and pedaled faster?

My goal, as with running, is not to get into competitive shape but simply to keep healthy, if that has any bearing on the answers. Though, I have toyed with the idea of doing some 5k runs...I just haven't gotten around to signing up for any. I have absolutely no idea what I'd be able to run today. I only ran a 5k once, and that was in high school--I think it took me about 20 or 21 minutes. There was a time in college when we were running about an 18 minute 5k pace for training runs that were twice as long, so I'm sure I could have been around 15-16 minutes given a couple races to get used to it. But today all my running is with a jogging stroller, and I don't bother paying any attention to my pace.

There is a mini triathalon some friends of mine did here in Ft. Collins this summer--that would be fun too, though the swimming would probably wipe me out. I used to be a lifeguard (for 9 years!), but I was never great at the swimming endurance tests--I always passed them, but they would leave me dead tired. I'd probably just breast stroke the whole way--slower, but I'd come out and still be able to bike and run.

Oh, one more question: anyone know how to compare mileage biking to mileage running. My workouts for running are usually 4.5-6 miles, depending on the route. I've been biking anywhere from about 8-16 miles, depending on which park we bike to.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some Pictures

I uploaded a bunch of pictures from our camera just now and decided to post a few here (some I'd uploaded already but was looking at and decided to toss in the mix)


(It was my son's birthday last weekend, so these are of the cake my wife made--yes, she's amazing with things like that--and of his new tricycle.)


And then a few pictures from the last month or so:



These are from Michigan--Camp Roger at the top and Greenfield Village on the bottom, where my son is already showing his astounding reading ability...or at least the ability to pretend to read.


And this is from Red Feather Lakes, which I mentioned in a post a couple weeks back:


Sunday, October 21, 2007

All Possible Worlds closure

I realized that I hadn't mentioned this yet--I was very sad to learn of this last week. They published one of my stories in the premiere issue, and they'd just released the second issue, so things seemed to be going well. I know there were some real life issues that had the editor (team?) behind on submissions, but it still came as a shock when I saw it mentioned on a forum that they'd closed. I wish Jason and everyone else involved the best. And of course I'll still leave the link up on the right so you can buy a copy of issue 1 or 2, if you're inclined. (The cover art for issue 1 is especially cool, so do check it out.)

Though actually, I suppose the better response is to take that money and support some of the other small press zines and various venues--those in my list on the right or any others. Electric Velocipede, LCRW, Sybil's Garage are a few that jump to mind that haven't published me--yet--but that strike me as worthy print zines to support, and you can always donate to any of the great (or even just good) ezines that give so much content for free. And of course I'm partial to those that have published my stories... (And speaking of, I should be posting something about Kaleidotrope 3 soon)

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm mentioned in an online casino blog...

I just noticed that my story "Stellar Roulette" at Every Day Fiction got a pingback from an online casino as something for its members to check out. Actually it looks like the blog is computer-created and simply links to anything that might possibly tie in to gambling. Even so...I'm laughing.

The Last Unicorn

I'm rereading Peter S. Beagle's classic story right now--for years I've been referring to him as one of my favorite fantasists, but I hadn't yet reread any of his books. And it's probably been nearly 10 years since I read The Last Unicorn the first time. So I'm enjoying it...and I'd forgotten how absolutely funny some parts of it are--scenes, snippets, even individual sentences, I'm just laughing out loud (during his breakfast this morning my one-day-shy-of-three-years-old son asked me what I was laughing about, and I couldn't really explain why the appearance of Robin Hood and the reactions of Captain Cully's men was so funny).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Have you read any amazing stories recently?

Jeff VanderMeer is asking his blog readers for any Short Fiction That Blew Your Socks Off. So if any stories you've read have really been amazing (especially if you think they'd be the type of story to impress that crowd), then go share them there. I've already shared a few that I'd mentioned on this blog in the past.

The broader context of this question is in a variety of discussions on the state of short fiction, which so many people seem to believe is dying. I must admit to feeling overall optimistic and excited about the state of the short fiction field--from a reader standpoint, I'm just discovering a lot of writers doing exciting things. Some of those have been writing for years, so my more recent discovery of them skews my overall impression. But usually when I see people lamenting the death of short fiction, it's all about rosy-tinted nostalgia for the type of stories they liked when they were wee lads, and what we really need is for writers to forget any ambition when it comes to craft and style. That's easy to dismiss. But of course, it's also not VanderMeer's take on the issue either, so his comments are something worth a lot more consideration.

(It's a bit of a side issue, but from a writer's standpoint I'm also optimistic--I'm finding a lot of venues that I'd love to be in, that are doing exciting things, and that seem to be surviving just fine. Yes, there have been some disappointing closures, but it seems there are as many new venues that open as those that close. I've only been actively paying attention to the market for a few years, so I have little to compare it to...but also no nostalgia for supposedly better times that probably actually weren't.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doris Lessing--Nobel Prize

I didn't feel, initially, that I'd have to say anything about Doris Lessing winning the Nobel Prize...it's the Nobel Prize, after all. Surely everyone knows. And this is an author who wrote science fiction, so certainly her winning should be sparking some dialogue here and there within the SF Internet community, right? Well, nothing I've seen so far. Now a part of me says my basic stance on literature, on speculative fiction, etc. means I shouldn't be making any bigger deal out of this than any other Nobel winner. I don't consider my allegiance necessarily to SF as a genre but to great writing regardless of genres and labels. I personally am more likely to prefer the speculative works, but that's where my allegiance is there, to the speculation whether it gets labeled as genre or not. But I guess my response to myself is that we should be paying attention to the Nobel Prize winner every year anyway--so why does no one even bring it up?

To be honest, I read (part of ) Lessing's Canopus in Argos series earlier this year and didn't care for it, and that's the work that's most clearly science fiction. But I read another of her books a few years ago--The Fifth Child--and enjoyed it. It's certainly speculative...though just as certainly doesn't belong classified with other genre works. It's probably closest to horror, I suppose, which is usually a type of story I don't like as much. I'm far from qualified to give an in-depth response to her winning or analysis of her writing. But I'm just disappointed that the Nobel Prize for literature (any year) goes by with so little acknowledgment in the speculative community. So now at least you're aware of her win. What you do with that is up to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Fix, including a review of mine

The Fix is a new (or rather, newly resurrected) review site for short fiction, similar in many ways to Tangent. It does have in addition to the short fiction reviews, monthly articles on speculative poetry, on podcast stories, and on film, but the focus is on short fiction. The managing editor is Eugie Foster, and it just went live today.

I have a review among those that open up the now-live site--New Genre #5. So if you're curious what kinds of stories they like, you can check it out there.

I also discovered a very fun story through browsing through the other reviews that are up--Yoon Ha Lee's "Notes on the Necromantic Symphony" is great fun, a story tucked into the program notes for an imagine symphony. When they work, I love stories like this that stretch the way the story is told. Farrago's Wainscot, which published the story, is a good source for strange stories, so do check it out. (Warning though, it always seems to crash Firefox on my computer, so I have to view it in awful IE.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Staffs & Starships

I'm finally allowed to announce that I have a story appearing shortly in issue 2 of Staffs & Starships. This is (obviously, since it's only issue 2) a new zine that's available for purchase both as a pdf and in print. I'll say more about the story once the new issue is available.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Anthologies

Jeff VanderMeer has a blog post about closed vs. open anthologies in response to Jay Lake's post on the same topic. (Ellen Datlow joins in the discussion at Jay's livejournal, as do some others whose names might be familiar.)

Now, as I'm at a stage where I'm not getting invited to closed anthologies, obviously I like open submissions...but that's simply selfish reasoning and should be taken with its own grain of salt. I do like Jeff's reasoning--including his caveats of when it does make sense to keep in antho closed.

There's one thing that I wonder if it needs to be thrown into the discussion, and that's the question of whether having an open submission increases awareness of the antho and therefore sales. A question is all it is at this point--I'm not saying that it does. But I know a number of aspiring and beginning writers get most or all their market knowledge from two places--hearing about it from another writer at a similar stage as themselves, and Ralan's. I try to be a bit more aware, with Nightshade forums and some author and editor blogs, but I have to admit that's where I get a lot of my info too. So if an anthology never appears on Ralan's, it seriously decreases the chances I'll learn about it.

This same things applies to magazines and ezines--I'm much more likely to pay attention to Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld (and soon, Fantasy) than to Subterranean Online--and that is actually what got me thinking about this question. I do try to remember to check out the new issues of Subterranean, and the fact that it's only quarterly hurts it in that respect, I think. Though it does mean that when I remember, I probably haven't missed an entire issue or anything. But I tend to only remember to check it when I see a link from someone's blog that they have a story there or if a fellow writer recommends a story from it, whereas Strange Horizons is always one of the first things I look at Monday morning.

So, I'm positive that having an open anthology increases awareness among certain groups of aspiring writers (and that pool of aspiring writers is very large). What I don't know is if that really translates into any difference in sales, or are the majority of those aspiring writers not likely to have the money to buy the anthology anyway? Are aspiring writers, as I've seen someone argue on a certain forum, too tight-fisted and miserly to bother attracting? There may be a slight risk that someone who's been rejected gets bitter and doesn't want to buy the product...but I'd think (again, just a hunch with no evidence to back it up) that it's more than countered by the much greater awareness.

Jeff's post focuses on the artistic benefit and whole-field benefit of open anthologies. This is more on the business side to add to the pro/con tally when considering the question from that perspective. It may not fully counter-balance the question of time required to read slush for a given anthology, but it at least can possibly mitigate it somewhat, maybe enough that the other questions from an artistic standpoint can take over.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bar book club--report

It's been a little over a month since our last meeting at the bar--we were supposed to hold it last week, but very few of us could make it. I'd known for a while that I wouldn't be there, so I hadn't read the book...but with the reschedule, I suddenly could, and had to read a long and dense book on the history of Scotland (and Scottish people abroad) from about late 1600s to late 1800s. I read nonfiction differently than I read fiction, though, especially nonfiction like this (a nonfiction Annie Dillard essay I might read more like I'd read fiction), so it wasn't too difficult to get it finished on time. (I rediscovered how to get a sense of what's going on just by reading the first sentence in each paragraph in some sections...)

We had a good discussion, sometimes about the book itself and often about other things that something in the book made us think about. One member of our group is actually from Scotland (he was the one who'd brought the book as a possibility), so that made from some interesting discussion about Scotland in general. And I now know (through him, not the book) that people from Glasgow are called Glaswegians and their accent is the Glaswegian accent. The Edinburgh accent, on the other hand, he described as a faux-posh accent. He grew up, it should be noted, exactly halfway between the two cities, but he said the Glaswegian accent extends to just a few miles from Edinburgh, and most of the people between there seem to identify more with Glasgow than Edinburgh (at least by his account).

There was no single drink of choice, but I went for the Cask-Conditioned Punjabi Pale Ale. I usually like the darker beers better, but that's one I'll have fairly often too.

Next month...all of the options looked good, including The River Why, which I've read and loved, but our final decision was an account of illegal immigration in the 1980s called Coyotes. Here's hoping it inspires us all to defend immigration from the extremist (/racist) voices that dominate so much of the discussion...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tying up loose ends

I've actually taken a brief break over the past two days from revising my novel and spent a bunch of time revising and submitting a number of short stories. And I expect I'll be doing more of that for a little while here, though while also working on novel revisions (I'm about a third of the way through the first set of revisions).

One thing that's come up in the novel revisions is the question of how neatly the ending of a story ought to be tied up. I have to admit I'm very suspicious of works that tie up too neatly. I like the implication that life continues, that we've reached a new version of normal, but that uncertainties remain. I may overreact on those counts, though. And I suspect there's a certain correlation between the length of a work (and therefore how much time a reader has invested in it) and how much you need to wrap things up neatly. A short story can more easily end abruptly, when that snippet of an event or life is over, but a multi-volume series may require a longer resolution to leave the readers satisfied. Maybe--I haven't thought this through too carefully, so it's merely a suspicious rather than a belief. My novel is not part of a(n overly long) fantasy series, just a stand-alone, though I may return to it at some point. But I will have to think about the ending and how it all wraps up.

What do you think, my faithful blog readers? The person who brought this up in regards to my novel* mentioned that things left unresolved may be more true to life, but true to life doesn't necessarily make better fiction. Any definite preferences in terms of how resolved you like a story to be?

*Actually, what she was referring to in my novel was that I have a tendency to introduce a certain tension or rivalry or motivation in an earlier chapter...and then not resolve that by the time that character's role in the story is through. That's definitely a failing on my part, and something I'm glad she pointed out. I'll fix that in revision. But thinking about that brought up this more general question in my mind.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A couple of markets closing down

I'm changing two of the links in the sidebar to "defunct." First a couple of weeks ago I received an email from Spinning Whorl editor that he was shutting down the magazine and associated projects. I'll leave the link up for now--it gives an email address, so if you want to order issue #3, which has my story, or one of the other issues, you can see if he has copies left. The former editor, Samuel Tinnianow, has a blog chronicling life after getting an MFA in creative writing.

The other market apparently shutting down is Mytholog. I can't find anything stating that on the actual site (and as that means archives are still up, including my "Turtle Car" story from last fall, I won't be deactivating the link), but Ralan's lists it as "closed by editor."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Red Feather Lakes

I grew up in a type of area where people from a ways away drive to to see the fall colors. Michigan can get some stunning views of red and yellow and orange mixed with the green of leaves that haven't changed yet and the darker green of pines. But it's hard to claim that as better scenery than what you see in the mountains right now--the splash of a yellow so vibrant it almost hurts against the dark evergreens. Some of the best views are in those places where there's just a few aspens, so that when their leaves were green you'd hardly know they were there among the pines, even though it's such a paler green...but turned yellow, you can't miss them. And then there's views like this, coming down today from Red Feather Lakes to the Poudre Canyon:

PS Did you know that a stand of aspens is considered a single organism, rather than each tree being a separate organism? This makes it the largest single organism on the planet--for a while a collection of mushrooms in Michigan's Upper Peninsula was considered largest when they first thought to consider that such a thing could be one organism instead of many--I remember that story from back in high school or college--but they must have realized or decided to consider the aspen groves in this way more recently than that.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stellar Roulette

My brief (exactly 100-word) story, "Stellar Roulette," is up at Every Day Fiction today. Welcome, anyone who happens to swing on over here from there. I typically say something about the origins of my stories as they're published...but I don't really recall much for this one. It makes me smile to read it every time, but all I really remember is that I was setting myself the challenge of writing a handful of stories that were exactly 100 words. (Another of those appeared last January in Shantytown Anomaly.)

Hope you enjoy it, and feel free to comment over on their site about the story.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Up-and-coming writers-to-watch"

Kaleidotrope 3 now available. The announcement on the blog includes my name with two others I recognize quite well as "up-and-coming writers-to-watch." And to see my name so close following World Fantasy Award-winner Bruce Holland Rogers...that's very cool.

You can check out the complete table of contents (which includes some other writers whose work I've enjoyed) and then purchase the issue for yourself.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The return of the one-hour quick write

I've mentioned a few times how one of the critique groups I'm part of does a weekly one-hour challenge where you're given a topic and have one hour to write a story, or the germ of a story at least. We'd taken a break from it because our attendance was down and some members were feeling burnt out...and I'll admit that I often hadn't been participating either.

Well, tonight was the first time to do that since we took a break. I wasn't able to make it on time (so I missed the chat and all that goes along with it), but I did come and do it later. And it was really good for me. I like what I wrote, and I intend to finish it up (it'll probably be pretty short, maybe twice as long or a little more as what I wrote already), but that's not really the main thing. What I noticed was that I kept getting to a certain point and thinking, "Well, that's a good point to take a break--I'll just stop here and post that." But I still had some good time left, so I made myself keep going.

See, that's been my struggle in other writing too of late (especially with all the revising I've been focusing on this past month or two). I get to what my brain says is a good place to stop...and I stop. So now we'll see how much these writing exercises carry over into the discipline I need to get done everything I want to accomplish.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fantasy Magazine going online

I've been saying for some time now that if I decide to take out another magazine subscription, it would likely be to Fantasy. Well, I guess that won't be happening now--this announcement came out a few days ago, and I just learned about it on Saturday.

I think it's a good move, very much similar to some of the ideas I'd thrown out a while back here on the blog about what I thought the best ways to have an ezine would be--frequently new (and free!) content and a variety of different things included. I'm definitely looked forward to that. It can join Strange Horizons as one of the things to look forward to each Monday (and other days as well).

I'll guess I can save that subscription money and use it for one of their anthologies (or one from Clarkesworld) or some other book or magazine. And add Fantasy to the list of quality magazines with free stories.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Matthew Hughes

I've read a number of Matthew Hughes's stories that appeared in F&SF while I had a subscription. He's now holding a contest give-away over at his website, so I thought I'd say a few things about the stories I've read.

His stories and novels are all set in a far-future earth, not quite Dying Earth- or New Sun-era, but immediately before that, what he calls the "penultimate age" of the earth (or was that merely Gordon Van Gelder's description of it in his intro to one of the stories? I forget).

There are two main characters he follows in the stories I've read, Henghis Hapthorn, a private investigator of some sort, and Guth Bandar, a noonaut--more about what that means in a bit. Henghis was central to last year's novel Majestrum and the new novel, The Spiral Labyrinth. Both are on my to-read list, but they haven't made their way to the top. Part of the reason may be that the one Henghis story I recall, "The Meaning of Luff," didn't engage me nearly as much as the Guth Bandar stories. It had its intriguing moments, but I think the other stories had raised my expectations, so I wasn't quite inspired to rush out and read Majestrum. (Even so I nearly bought it last time I had a gift card to the local bookstore--it was one of a handful of books that I ended up choosing two others from.)

But those Bandar stories...the idea of the noosphere is that it's humanity's collective unconscious, and scientists have discovered a way to explore it, experiencing as if physically the archetypes that are common to all humans. Now those who've read the first draft of my Silk Betrayal can probably guess why that would intrigue me anyway--I just think it's a very cool setup that's ripe for a lot of fascinating stories. But if it was simply potential for good stories, then I probably wouldn't be quite as enthusiastic about it--the first one that I read set there, though (and I can't remember it's name, but maybe I'll come back and add it in a bit), added a great story within that great setting. If this sounds interesting, there's one of the Bandar stories on his website: "A Little Learning." A collection of all the Bandar stories will be coming out from Robert J Sawyer Books. Actually the website says "will be published in June 2007," so I'm not sure if it already came out and that hasn't been updated or, what I think it more likely, that the pub date has been pushed back.

The other books--the two Henghis novels I mentioned as well as a collection of short stories involving him have all been published by the inestimable Night Shade Books.

Those who come here regularly know that I don't like firm distinctions between science fiction and fantasy, but I also know that some of you who prefer things labeled as fantasy might be a bit leery about the far future aspect of this. But this is not (or what I've read isn't at least) hard science fiction all caught up in the exact science of how these things work or obsessed with rigorous explanations. I think these are works that will appeal to fantasy fans as well as science fiction fans and all of those like me who freely cross any borders placed in our way. (Hmmm, Writers Without Borders, like Doctors Without Borders...except with words and genres instead of medicine and countries...I like that.)

Update and correction: I just heard from Matthew Hughes, and "The Meaning of Luff" is actually not a Henghis Hapthorn story, but another character, one whose stories, he said, tend to be darker in mood and wouldn't fit well with the Hapthorn stories. So...yeah. I'm feeling a bit sheepish--it's certainly a poor reason for not reading Majestrum now...

Also, I just paged through my copies of F&SF, and the Guth Bandar stories I'd read were "Help Wonted" and "A Herd of Opportunity." And now I'm reading (and enjoying) "A Little Learning."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Writing poetry within a secondary world

As I'm revising Silk Betrayal, I've reached a point in the story where at least three of those who read the earlier draft said I need to include some of the poetry I refer to--the poetry plays a key role, inspiring some of the events that follow, and the consensus was that I was telling readers how powerful the poetry is but not showing it. But that means I have to not only write engaging characters, gripping action, deep layers of meaning, intrigue, obstacles, and everything else good prose has...I have to write poetry. Not just any poetry, poetry that makes a connoisseur sit up and take notice as well as inspire the less educated sectors of the society.

Is there any question why I didn't try that during the first draft? I won't try to recreate the entire epic by any means, but at the least I need a few lines thrown in there to get the feel across. Actually the chapter I'm on now simply has some lyrical poetry from an oppressed religious group, so that's not too bad. But in two chapters or so I'll get to the actual epic, and the POV character marvels at how the different lines interact, how they play with and subvert the traditional structures. Yeah, that'll be tough.

I'm not going for any complete poems, and I don't think any form poetry with a set rhythm or rhyme would fit this culture. In some senses that makes it easier...but good free verse, even just two lines of good free verse, can be as challenging as good poetry in a traditional form. And I don't want to rely too much on the idea that what's there is merely translated--if it's translated, then I'm the translator, and it's equally my job to make the poem convey its meaning in a poetic way as the original poet. I'll fall back on that explanation a bit in my head, but to use it completely as an excuse seems a cop-out.

I grabbed a couple of books of non-Western poetry from the library the other day--I actually took them from the shelf before I even thought of them as inspiration for this. But I didn't find any Indian poetry. I'm sure I can find some translations of Vedic hymns and other religious works online (Sacred Texts, here I come). But if anyone knows of any other Indian poets, whether more ancient or even as recent as the late 19th century, let me know and I'll look into that as well.