Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reflection's Edge

Extremely observant frequent visitors to this blog (...) will notice a new magazine in the sidebar on the right--Reflection's Edge. They've recently accepted a story of mine (one of my favorites, in fact). The turnaround time on this one is very quick, as I've already seen the preview page, and the story should come live sometime in February. So I'll just hold off until it's actually up to say any more than that.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A story in Kaleidotrope

I'll be having a story in the April issue of Kaleidotrope. I really like the cover art for issue 1, so I decided to post that here. The story is a rather short one about a race of beings that the humans living nearby have dubbed 'living stumps.' I've written a few stories about them, but this will be the first to be published.

Every once in a while I get the urge to write a YA fantasy novel, and one of the stories that's been playing around in my head would involve these living stumps. Not that the short stories with them have been exactly YA, but I think they could be fun. Of course, I'm plenty busy with current projects, so it would really be several months before I could even consider doing anything with that, but for now the various ideas are bouncing around my head, so when I finish the first draft of the current novel, we'll see what happens. I read a fair number of YA fantasies a few years ago--I remember feeling like the best were able to push at the edges of fantasy more than mainstream adult fantasy does (though in the past couple of years I've discovered a much broader vein of fantasy that my local library at the time hadn't carried).

Oh, I suppose it's also worth mentioning that I had a story make it to the final round of Allegory (formerly Peridot Books), and will learn at the end of February whether they publish it or not. Even if not, it'll have my name posted as 'honorable mention.' So I guess I won't add them to the sidebar quite yet (though I will add Kaleidotrope), but hopefully in a month I can add them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

When is a story over?

Yesterday I received a rejection for a story that essentially said it was very good, but felt like a part of something much larger and didn't seem to stand fully on its own. I've had that with other stories as well--from IGMS and Writers of the Future, a review of one of my published stories, among others. And I've had that at times from those in my critiquing group, especially a story I revised and submitted yesterday. Sometimes I look back and realize that I could have done a bit more--I have a tendency, in early drafts especially, to leave things very understated, expecting readers to tease out exactly what it means. But I usually fix that in revision, and I don't think that was the case with these stories.

So a part of me wants to suggest that it comes down to preferences. I like stories that imply a wider world. I like stories that finish what they're about but encourage the reader to imagine what that might mean for the wider story. Really, when it comes down to it, any ending is artificial anyway. So I end the story I intend to tell--"Untouched by Fire" (which drew such comments from both WotF and IGMS) begins with a character suddenly outcast, untouchable, and it's that word--untouchable--that cripples her at the beginning, especially since she comes from the highest caste of her society. It ends, in a literal but understated way, with her coming to grips with being untouchable (allowing another untouchable to touch her hand). To me, that's the perfect ending. You don't know how she continues to handle being untouchable. Society doesn't change and suddenly accept her. But her character arc is complete (as much as a short story allows--this story did become the setting for my current novel in progress, and the character one of the principal characters). It's an ending that fits the opening. But there seem to be other types of readers, and I'm not surprised that IGMS fits in here, who want a more definitive ending, who want the story to play out longer, and I wonder if it ties into being more firmly within the popular confines of the genre. I don't think that explanation covers it all--the readers in my critique group for that story I worked on yesterday wouldn't fall into that explanation. But if so, that's probably good--my target is the markets more on the literary end of the genre as opposed to the pop end.

Or maybe I'm just rationalizing it for myself and I really should develop the endings more, push them a little further. I'll take a look again before I send yesterday's rejected story to another market and see.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Shantytown Anomaly

I did get my contributor copy of this the other day, but I see that I didn't mention anything about it yet. It's a fun little magazine--low budget like many speculative poetry print magazines, but in some ways that's part of the fun of such publications. This issue contains more fiction usual, but it still has a number of poems as well. Of the fiction, my favorite is "Longing in the 21st Century" by Josh Maday, which manages to be poignant and speculative and relevant in a very few words--it's on the same page as my 100-word story, and each take up about the same amount of space.

There's some good poetry as well. A number of scifaiku as well as a dozen or so longer poems. Of special note is "Living Memory" by J. C. Runolfson which tells of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from her perspective. There were others I also enjoyed, but I'll leave it at that.

It's an enjoyable issue and worth checking out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yoga for the mind

Thanks to Celina for this line. I had no other grand themes to discuss today, but when I read this line, I knew I just had to repost it. Can we go Zen on it? Has she been reading some scifaiku on the sly? No, I doubt it. She makes some good points about blogging as invaluable exercise for writings in this post, but it's the post before it that made me want to say, 'Amen.' There remains in many circles an overpowering romantic image of the struggling artist, pulled by the whims of a muse. And there are times when it's valuable to think of writing in this way. There are times when the creativity just doesn't seem to be there, and I don't think it's merely a phase young writers go through. We all have cycles of productivity and stagnation no matter how disciplined we are. But...

No, this needs a new paragraph. But the discipline has to be there. Too many people I run into get so hung up on the muse image, on the I-must-wait-for-the-inspiration dead-end. Certainly there are days when I get little done (including recently)...though even then, as I try to decide which route to take I am accomplishing something. But I think there's a strong danger in falling back on that waiting-for-the-inspiration thing anytime something gets difficult. You want to be a writer? Be ready to deal with those hard passages, with stories that you have to wrestle from your mind. If every time you run into a stumbling block you abandon the story, then you're not a writer. You play with words, little more.

One poet I studied in undergrad was William Stafford, who was known to hold himself to a poem every single day and recommended the same for aspiring poets. When asked what he did when he couldn't seem to write a good poem on a given day, he answered that then he writes a bad poem. People got in a huff, thinking he was advocating a slapdash approach to writing, thinking he was advising others to aim for mediocrity. But that's not it at all. The idea is that you use that discipline to write every day (or whatever works for you) without letting the fear of failure stop you.

So fail. Fail often. Learn from failure and have the discipline to bring success out of some of that failure as well.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Shantytown Anomaly Issue #4

I received an email this morning that this new issue has been released (actually according to the website it was released 5 days ago). I haven't received my contributor copy yet, but once I do I'm sure I'll have more to say about it. I'm looking forward to it! There's a link in the sidebar on the right.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tainaron


Back in November I mentioned a special deal Jeff VanderMeer was having for a couple of books, including Tainaron by Leena Krohn (translated from Finnish). Well, I received the books just after Christmas--it would have been sooner except the first blizzard (this weekend is looking to make it 4 for 4 weeks with a significant snow system moving through Colorado--very atypical, from what we're told and certainly compared with last winter) completely shut down our postal service for a while.

Anyway, I've just finished Tainaron, and I can definitely recommend it. (If you're wondering how it could have taken me this long to finish such a short book, well, I've been reading a bunch of other things as well--the nature of the book is such that you can easily read one of the letters and then put it aside while you try to get caught up on other reading...until it draws you right back in.) It's a strange and fascinating fantasy told in 30 letters from a woman across the sea in a city of insects to her lover back home. It's not about an overarching plot, not about explaining why she's there (she seems to have forgotten) or why the beetle Longhorn has become her de facto guide. It's about being a stranger, about a bizarre society and the changes that take place there. And the changes that take place for each person even here. Or at least that's what I think it's about after one read. I'm pretty sure that the offer for Tainaron still stands, though I think the special deal on a signed copy of Secret Life has expired. So if you're looking for something different, it's certainly worth checking out.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Sword Review in print

Just received my contributor copy of The Sword Review in the mail yesterday--it looks really nice. I know, all these things were available online for free, but if you enjoyed the stories and (like me) would rather read sitting on the couch or riding the exercise bike instead of sitting at the computer, go buy a copy! (I don't get paid royalties or anything for this, so I'm not pushing this because I would get more money if you bought it--I won't. I just think it's a very nice product that's worth checking out.) It's published through Lulu, so even though I tend to be leery of the type of self-published books that come from Lulu and similar vanity publishers, this speaks nicely for the quality of the process at least, of the physical object.

This issue, by the way, has both the story "Treasure from the God" and the essay/editorial (I forget exactly what they called it) "Arnie's Eyes."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Year in review

Since Bibsy did so on her blog, I guess I'll put a bit up of what I've done over the past year, though it probably won't end up as statistical as hers was. Last year at this time I was doing final revisions on my first novel manuscript--I'd started writing it over 5 years ago, took 2 1/2 years to write the first two drafts and had sent it out to a couple publishers when it really wasn't ready. When we moved to Colorado, I did a lot more research into the publishing side of things and got involved in a couple of online critiquing groups, which helped me push the novel to a new level. So that was where I was at with a year ago. After revisions I sent it to one publisher that accepted unsolicited manuscripts at the time (though it doesn't anymore) and haven't heard back from them, despite queries. So I pulled it from them and submitted it elsewhere a couple weeks ago.

But that was not the only novel I worked on this year. Again this time last year I decided to pull my second novel--more science fiction than fantasy--out again, rework it a bit, and post it for critiques. I'd initially put it away because it seemed too experimental, something no one would likely accept from a no-name writer. But as I remembered some of the things I'd liked about it, I decided to give it another go, and I think it works much better now after some significant revisions and additions. I finished those in November, and I'll be submitting it somewhere soon--to a publisher or agent, I'm not sure. Ideally to the same publisher that the first one is at once they accept that one ;)

And...on New Years Eve I finished chapter 18 of a new novel that I started last summer. It's currently at 73k words, which is as long as the first draft of Signs and Wonders was (before I added 10k in the most recent revisions) and only 7k short of the first draft of Darkness. And I have 10-12 chapters to go, so this one might be pushing 120k. From me that's almost ridiculous.

Stories, I'm not even going to count how many I've written or submitted. But I've had 3 stories published (as well as an essay, 4 poems, and a handful of book reviews). Two more would have been published, but the publisher folded. And I have 7 stories currently scheduled to come out in the coming year--4 in print and 3 online (one of which should be very soon). Also at least a couple dozen different things currently out on submission (including some poems).

I have no funny anecdotes to give about the comments on rejections like Bibsy has. Alas. So what's ahead for the new year? What goals do I have? The key goal is simply to keep challenging myself, to keep improving as a writer. And obviously I'd like good news with my novel submissions. More specifically, I'd like to be done with the first draft of the new novel sometime in March. I'd like to have a professional sale of a short story (at least professional-level in terms of pay, even if SFWA doesn't consider it professional). And let's say a dozen other sales of short stories. In all that seems pretty reasonable. I hope.

PS Oh, I guess I do remember one head-scratching rejection--"The story was aptly titled." Oh. Good. Were you reaching for something to say that was positive and that's all you could come up with? =)