Friday, February 29, 2008

Correction

"The Canyon of Babel," is already up as a reprint at Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine. Let's see...this started as a challenge prompt at a peer critiquing site. The prompt was to use a prophecy in a fantasy story. Now...I'm leery of prophecies. They show up entirely too frequently, in my opinion, in fantasy. So rather than going at it straight ahead, I chose to wonder what would happen if someone was trying to make a prophecy come true.

It also rose from an image that came to mind as I was moving here from Michigan--what if there was a place where the echoes came back in another language? What would that have to say about language itself and its interaction with the physical world? I saw that image as something Borges might contemplate, and while I didn't write the story in any way as Borgesian, for me that question still lies at the base of the story.
Shadow Streets, for real this time

So I'd posted about this already back in December, under the mistaken impression that it was now available. But now it is for real, in issue 2 of Staffs & Starships. You can buy the .pdf now, and I believe the plan is to make print versions available as well--there were some problems with the printer they'd chosen for issue 1, so I think that's still getting resolved.

This is the story of a woman separated from her people and trying to get back. And it's the story of a city that's really two, a day-time city, whose streets shrink to nothing overnight, and a night-time city whose streets grow with the darkness. Keela has become trapped in the day-light streets and seeks to return to her home. It is tangentially related to my first published fantasy story, which will soon be reprinted in Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A 3-year-old's pick-up line

On Thursday mornings I help do some child-care for a group of mothers--it's a nice chance for my son to get some social interaction, since he doesn't get that through day care like many kids do and is still half a year away from pre-school.

This morning the cousins of a couple of our usual kids were there as well, and after I asked her, the girl told me she was three. A moment later I noticed my son had walked up next to her, said hi and his name, and then said, "I'm three, too." Then he just waited for her to acknowledge him or say something back, and it seemed so much like an awkward pick-up line that I had to laugh (silently, of course, to not embarrass him). She was probably half a year older than him and just ignored him, which broke my heart, but he seemed to get over it pretty quickly.

I had some less pleasant things happen today as well, so this is the image I want to replay over and over in my mind rather than the others. Much as I'd like to rant, I don't think it'd do me any good at the moment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New story written

I finished a new Living Stump story yesterday. This one went well after the initial false start. I'd written one paragraph, realized I didn't like that for an opening, and then went and wrote a completely different story. So now I came back and started the story in a different place, and it went well. It has a bit of political undercurrent in response to the xenophobic anti-immigration crazies, but less blatantly so than another story I recently wrote. Mostly it's just another fun story of the living stumps staring Arten.

The earlier two stories both appeared in Kaleidotrope, and working on this one has renewed my interest in taking out the chapters I wrote for a YA novel that takes place a generation or two later. I put it away to focus on rewriting Silk Betrayal as well as trying to improve my revision skills with short stories, but I may come back to that now that the other novel is done. Both stories are available from Anthology Builder, don't forget--my account there now has 3 cents in it for a pair of sales of anthologies with one of my stories. Wealth and fame, here I come!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flash piece at Everyday Fiction

I missed this when I first got up this morning because hotmail was down and then didn't have time to post it here once I realized it, but my story "Journey: Archetype in a Pop-Song Structure" is today's story at EDF. This is a story where the form came first--I was thinking about guitar chords and the standard progression of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and thought it'd be fun to play with something similar for fiction. Since it was a new form I was trying to invent, I decided to anchor it with a literal bridge in the bridge section...and the rest of the story fell in place from there.

Oh yeah, and it has terror birds--the giant, flightless bird carnivores that fascinate me. They're under-represented in fantasy, and I aim to fix that balance. Or something like that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Slipstream surf-guitar, Cyber ballads, and the spandex-heavy Hair-writer

Don't forget today is your day to plunder whatever music genres you like for creating your own speculative fiction manifesto over at Fantasy Magazine. People have already come up with the sub-genres in the title of this post as well as others, but feel free to add more. So polish up your manifesto madness and see what craziness you can come up with.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipse

Ah, clouds, go away! I want to see the eclipse, please? We're in Colorado, not Michigan. There aren't supposed to be dreary skies here.
"Bramble Wolf" to New Myths

Actually, the full title is "The Bramble Wolf and the Hunter." The original draft of this is one of my earliest after I returned to writing short fiction (that would make it...4 years ago, or 5?), and if I remember correctly, the title came first. In fact I'm pretty certain that it was around the same time I came up with the story that I was given a notebook for jotting down ideas and fragments and decided to scribble as the notebook's title "Twigs and Brambles." I must have been on a bramble kick at the time.

This story had been accepted by Grendel Song a year or so ago before that unfortunately folded--I had been looking forward to having a story in there, since it seemed like a great publication. So that makes it even more gratifying for the story to have found a home now. The current issue of New Myths includes a story by J.M. McDermott, whose first novel I've been hearing a lot about--on Jeff VanderMeer's blog, on FBS forums, on other blogs. It sounds like an intelligent, literary (as I use that word), secondary-world fantasy...which is right up my alley.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fidel Castro

He's stepping aside, in case you haven't heard. Most of the Hispanic/Latino communities I've interacted with had a rather ambiguous view of him. Often a certain amount of respect was mixed in with more negative feelings--he succeeded in implementing ideals that had been longed for in various revolutions and reforms throughout Latin America...but he also did so on the back of human rights abuses. Rarely did it involve the hate for him found in the Cuban exile community...likely because most of those I knew were Mexican, Dominican, Argentinian, etc.

The history is sobering--he overthrew a corrupt dictator who had US support, and US support for dictators has been our black eye throughout Latin America (and the world even). Castro wasn't nearly as radical at the time, and he sought US approval and support. It was when he didn't get it that he turned to USSR and became much more radical.

None of which excuses the abuses...but it does place some of the blame on us as well. And it helps show how history is never as simple as people like to present it.

Anyway, I had one college prof who actually went on a double date with Castro once. This was before the revolution. He and the man who would become my professor's husband were in university together and went on a double date. Profa Cortina and her husband were among those who fled immediately after the revolution--she already had a doctorate in Cuba, but was stuck cleaning hospitals in the US. But then she learned English (as all immigrants try) and earned a BA and MA in Michigan and ended up starting the exchange program that I went on to Spain. Actually, I found an online tribute to her at my alma mater's website...and turns out some of the details are slightly different, but mostly the same. I love the detail about remembering Fidel's dreams to play baseball. And I never knew about her husband's involvement in Bay of Pigs. Huh.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Devil toad and cuttlefish

I had started writing this post about the news article on the monstrous toad whose fossils have been found. I had to run before posting it, and since then I've noticed it linked on various other blogs and it's even on the the main page of Msn, so it seems silly to devote an entire post to it...

I did write a story once with a frog god that this monster would fit well.

But so that this isn't only about that, I hunted down another pop science article to add to it: the camouflage secrets of cuttlefish. I haven't even read the article yet (though I will once I'm done here). Before I went to Spain I didn't even know such a thing existed. They gave us vocab lists, including things we'd be likely to encounter there--sepia on the food list was translated as "cuttlefish"...that didn't help me at all. They'd be a good addition to any additional stories I might write in the milieu of "The Metamorphosis of the Phosphorescent Avenger" though.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Games

Yesterday I was writing a couple of paragraphs about the writing of my story "The Game" for Fictitious Force (they ask for that rather than a bio), and it occurred to me that games appear in several of my stories--"City of Games" in Sporty Spec, "Hope Games" in The Sword Review, "A Game of Words" and probably some others that are currently unpublished. Not only that, but I just remembered this morning that one of the first real poems I wrote (at age 16, I believe) was called "This LifeGame"--"Throughout this crazy / tornado-sped twist and tumble / the chaos kisses purpose / only at the final buzzer." (I feel a bit silly sharing something I wrote nearly half my life ago, but...there it is.)

I'm certain a part of this comes from experiential education. Games form a central piece of most programs I ran--games as a way to break down barriers between people, games as metaphor, games as simple fun. I'm sure it also comes from my interest in sports--I don't follow sports too much, but I always loved to play just about anything. I have a definite preference for sports that reward hustle over finesse (though that reward both--not only hustle), and especially for sports that can be enjoyed without a ridiculous investment in gear. Anyone can run (financially, I mean), anyone can find something to kick around on the ground, almost anyone can get their hands on a ball to shoot around at the local park, or a disk for Ultimate, and even a net and a volleyball can be found pretty easily without spending tons of money to buy your own. Golf, on the other hand...

I actually discovered the fun of hacky-sack (which gets more finesse-oriented) in large part because of a story someone in a creative writing class wrote. He made it into such a cooperative, new-games kind of activity that I decided I wanted to be a part of such a community. When I was teaching PE tried to create such an atmosphere around hacky-sack...but it often became fiercely competitive. (I love competition too, but in other contexts--it wrecks what I like about hacky-sack.)

I think I've lost myself in that ramble. Anyway...games. Yeah. There's something in them, some power that keeps drawing me back.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I didn't win the beer, but...

My post on Fantasy Magazine's Blog for a beer! didn't win, but it did get runner-up, which means next week everyone can weigh in on what musical subgenres we ought to plunder for a metaphor for our next speculative fiction movement. Cabaret? Rootsy blues? (the one thing I never hear on the radio stations here is John Kay's Heretics & Privateers--that was an album that disappeared too soon) Non-western music? (by which I don't mean country-and-western) Start brainstorming now, and maybe you'll beat me out for the beer next week.

(This is rather tongue-in-cheek...and yet I am fascinated with the idea of mapping different types of books to different types of music and letting what interests me musically spark interesting approaches to writing too.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Review up at The Fix

My review of Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six is up today. I had to hurry with this one a bit to get the timing right with The Fix's interview with Paolo. Several of these stories fit very well with the type of SF I really like--I don't tend to write this kind (though there are some superficial resemblances between "Pocketful of Dharma" and a couple of my published stories), but I definitely enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Writers of the Future

I just got a phone call from WotF that my story this past submission period is an Honorable Mention. A phone call--I don't think I've had a phone call about a story before, so that caught me by surprise. A pleasant surprise, of course. It's not a winner then, but the person I spoke with said that there are usually around 30 HMs every quarter, which given the number of submissions makes me feel pretty good. I think every other time I've submitted a story there (2? 3?) it's been a quarter finalist, so it's a nice step up.

The list of HMs is going up batch by batch at the WotF blog. At this moment my name isn't up yet, but sometime tonight it should go up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"A Chance to Breathe"

A few days ago I mentioned that I might start working on a new Living Stump story. I started that (and still hope to get back to it by the end of the month at the latest), but then I got caught up in a completely different story. If I think it's ready to go out in time for the deadline, this will probably go to Shimmer for their clockwork fables special issue. It certainly fits that, with something of a new weird slant, at least at this stage. Who knew that giant, sentient beetles suffered from consumption just like humans did back in the industrial revolution? I should be able to wrap the first draft up this afternoon, and then we'll have to see where it goes from there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Copies of GUD

At the end of January I posted a comment/brief review of a story from GUD issue 2. Well, it turns out my review was randomly selected as the winner of the contest, so today I received copies of issues 0-2 in print. Add them to my to-read pile...which is steadily growing instead of shrinking. They sure look nice though, so I hope to get to reading at least parts of them as soon as I can.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Birthday--woo hoo

It's my birthday today. No great plans going (that I know of) partly because my son is sick. My wife is making a cake at the moment, and I think we might have supper with my sister- and brother-in-law, niece and mother-in-law (who's visiting to help out with the baby)...depending on how the sick 3-year-old is doing.

I received a copy of my brother's self-published book as a birthday gift, and I pre-ordered the limited edition of Shriek as a gift to myself.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The joy of writing a synopsis

Well, one of the things I've set for myself to do before our baby is born is work on finding an agent for my latest novel. As of yesterday, I'm done with the novel! Sort of. I'll be polishing up the first few chapters as I'm gathering my list of agents to query and all that. But last night and this morning have been all about getting the synopsis written. In my first stab at it, I wrote quite a short version--shorter than some places seem to prefer, so I may have to come back and do an expanded one. But my impression is that typically such synopses are more for publishers who take unagented submissions rather than for agents, so the hope would be that I won't need that.

Now I've been distilling it even more, getting the kind of 3-paragraph synopsis/teaser that goes into a query letter. A part of me likes doing that, actually, but it's certainly work--weighing every single word as well as the whole even more than I tend to do for short stories. I've been doing some agency research too...but that's even more of a mind-twisting process that I quickly distract myself from.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Living Stumps at Anthology Builder

Last year I had two stories about Arten, a Living Stump, that both appeared in Kaleidotrope. Both of them--"First Peeling" and "Stump Courtship"--now are available at Anthology Builder, in addition to "Sleep Magic." I believe I've blogged about their origin before, but the stumps were a random, whimsical addition to a (n as-yet unpublished) story that got a very positive reaction from crit groups. I then wrote "First Peeling" as a rather darker take on the stumps' lives as refugees and then "Stump Courtship" as a gentler story about the same character. About that story, Rich Horton writes
Daniel Ausema's "Stump Courtship" somewhat sweetly portrays a tree-like alien among kiteflying humans, as he looks for an appropriate courtship gift for his intended.
I have an idea for another stump story that I may be working on soon, but for now you can add these stories to your own anthology if you wish.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mardi-Gras

It completely snuck up on me this year, and even when I heard a mention that Ash Wednesday is already this week (which also surprised me), I didn't put that together until just now. Probably because of all the election coverage and all--in Detroit, there was always a big build-up toward Mardi-Gras in the media, and even now I imagine the main story centers on the taste of, high fat of, origin of, or locations you can get your own Paczki (pronounced Poonch-key...at least by the TV reporters).

The idea of carnival (which is usually related to Mardi Gras, though not always identical) has intrigued me for a number of years, and that's shown up in a few of my stories. When I was in Spain I spent the night of Carnival dressed as a cave-man and dancing in the streets of a town that's been celebrating Carnival since medieval times. Pego, I think was the town. It's a fairly small town, smaller than Denia where we were (which itself isn't huge). Denia had recently started trying to replicate Pego's way of celebrating it to get in some more tourism money, but according to the locals it didn't match the celebrations in Pego.

Can anyone point me to any good carnival-type scenes in fantasy/SF books?

Monday, February 04, 2008

A pair of reprints

My first published story (well, first speculative story, as I'd had one mainstream story published several years earlier), "Canyon of Babel," has been accepted for publication in Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine. I'll certainly mention it once it comes out.

Also, not a sale really, but my story "Sleep Magic" from last spring's debut issue of All Possible Worlds is now available as an option at Anthology Builder. If you're not familiar with that yet, basically you can go through their offered stories and create your own custom anthology. So if you're thinking of creating your own anthology, consider adding my brief, humorous story into the mix.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Keyhole Opera

Picked this up yesterday from the bookstore (I had a gift certificate that was demanding to be used). I first heard about it when it won the World Fantasy Award a couple of years ago and knew right away that it sounded like something I'd enjoy. I almost bought it straight from Wheatland Press a while back, but then something came up and I didn't. Then, I almost bought it from Clarkesworld, along with a copy of Gene Wolfe's Bibliomen (which was selling for about half the price of anywhere else), but got to the check-out screen and the browser crashed. When I came back later in the day (or maybe first thing the next day--I forget) to redo the order...I discovered that Clarkesworld had closed to individual buyers and would only sell in bulk to other sellers. So I'm pleased to finally have it.

I have so much to read that I have to resist reading only it, but with stories this short, it's very easy to quickly read one in the gaps when I might not have a chance to get into any of the longer works I'm reading (which at the moment are Crowley's Little, Big, McDonnell's Wind Follower, and Aylett's Lint.)