Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tweet story at Outshine!

I have a story up today at Outshine, the optimistic near-future SF twitter-zine. So take a break from that 50k-word NaNo project and check out this 25 (or so) word story.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Even So (a Fib)" at Every Day Poets

I'm not even sure if I mentioned this when the poem was accepted a couple of months ago, but now my Fibonacci-sequence poem is up for your ecstatic enjoyment or something: "Even So." This was definitely one of those poems that started with form--I don't remember much else about its composition apart from the fact that I was playing with the Fib form and this was the one I ended up liking best. As always with Every Day Poets, go visit, give it a score if you wish, even comment, but mostly read and enjoy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Story published at Everyday Weirdness
In what is easily the fastest turnaround on a story from acceptance to publication, my flash fiction "The Last Centaur, Dying," was accepted yesterday for publication and published this morning. This story came from a prompt on a forum, one of several I've cut back my participation with lately but still visit. On there was a loud-spoken member whose tastes were typically diametrically opposed to my own, and he challenged the other members to write a story based on this picture he'd taken (or perhaps only found, I forget) of Antoine Bourdelle's Dying Centaur statue. Or actually one of them, as Google seems to indicate there are a number of his centaur statues at various locations around the world. I wanted to keep the narrative completely from the perspective of a viewer, as that seemed fitting for the statue, rather than giving the centaur's dying thoughts.

We didn't post the stories at the forum, of course, but he invited us to send them to him, offering some sort of prize, it seems. As I'd expected, he didn't consider mine a favorite, though he did have some kind things to say. I then forgot about the piece I'd written for probably close to two years until I stumbled on it about a month ago, revised it, and sent it to Everyday Weirdness.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nemonymous now available also!

Nemonymous 9, Cern Zoo is available now, and while you're ordering, might as well throw in Zencore! as well, if you didn't get it when I had a story in there...as well as any of the others. I can't wait to see this and see how my story fits in with all the others (besides anonymously).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cinema Spec available now!

I got an email from Karen Romanko yesterday that Cinema Spec is already available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, apparently surprising her by how quickly it went through the system--she'd been told 6 to 10 weeks and instead it sailed through in 4 days.  So reviews are not out yet, since the idea was to time them for the expected publication date...

Anyway, I'm very excited to see this book and to see the reactions of others to it.  It looks like a lot of fun.  As with Sporty Spec, my story wraps up the anthology.  So...Raven Electrick Ink has done sports and movies, what do you think she should do next?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Nemonymous 9 -- Cern Zoo

I'm excited to announce that I'll be having a story in Nemonymous 9.  My experience with Nemo 7 was great, and I'm very much looking forward to the guessing contests to see if anyone guesses that I wrote the story I did--I feel like this one was definitely written in the spirit of Nemonymous, writing something very different from what I typically write (or at least it seemed that way to me at the time) such that it was almost like I was hiding my own writing identity from myself as I wrote.  I'm tempted to elaborate on that a bit...but I don't want to leave too many clues as to which story is mine, so I'll leave it at that.  I'm looking forward to seeing the anthology--probably in August.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Twitter serial at Thaumatrope

This month my serial story--of a Prospero-like wizard who is far less powerful than he imagines himself to be--will be going up 140 characters at a time at Thaumatrope.  It's a little more accepting of the standard ideas of a wizard than what I tend to write, but I wanted to build on and play with those kind of expectations here.  I see the narrator as a bit of a rogue at first, though in editing the work so it worked better as a whole, some of that rogue-ish-ness was lost.  But it still informs how I see his development.  So you can just check Thaumatrope everday all month and see both the serial and the various stand-alone tweets (and it's been fun to see how the many writers involved have told their stories in such compressed form), or you can go to the link dedicated just to the serial, which is called #WorldAsh.  I'll also recommend the serials that have proceeded mine, Jeremiah Tolbert's #futureJer and Alethea Kontis's #DrGnome.

This was a fun experiment to write, a very different kind of way to tell a story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with me

My poem with Every Day Poets back in Decemeber was the most read poem of the month, so they conducted a brief interview with me a few weeks ago, and it's now up at the site.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Serial project season 1 complete

I've finished the rough draft of the entire first season of the project I've mentioned a handful of times. Thirteen episodes long, each about 5k words, so that makes it a very short novel (in terms of length), while a second season of the same length would be a longish novel. Well, longer than most publishers say from a first-time novelist, though plenty of published books end up well over that.

I have my doubts how it would work as a novel, however. The structure is quite different, and definitely the ending of episode 13, while fitting for how TV season-finales go, would be dissatisfying as a novel ending.

I've really enjoyed the project, though, and I'm pleased with the results so far. I've done some minor revisions through episode 9 and shared them for critiques and gotten good responses (as well as good advice for the next revisions). But what to do with the project from here? ...

One option is to continue the things I did with episode 1, designing each episode into a faux-Victorian newspaper layout with period ads that fit the setting. I had fun doing that for the first episode...but I don't think I really have the design skills to get the kind of quality I'd like. Doing it myself, I'd end up with decent documents, but with a definite DIY rough-ness to it. And it would take forever. Then I guess I could try to sell subscriptions to the project, send out a new episode once a week (or whatever). I don't really have either a fan base or the sales ability to get the interest I'd want with that, though. Not without building my name much more first.

Another option is to look into podcasting the episodes. The idea has been playing in my mind since the beginning. I wrote the episodes with a very regular structure, so that I could stick faux-radio ads in at the scene breaks. I've had no reference to radio in the stories and suspect it hasn't quite been invented yet, but I could set the ads up as if they refer to demands and services of the same city, only 50 or so years later. I would likely be making that available for free then (through podio books), but I could conceivably combine it with subscriptions for the pdf's. That would help break down the steep name-recognition barrier somewhat, but wouldn't solve the design issues.

And the last possibility, which is looking most likely at the moment, is to do nothing for now and just keep my eyes out and hope for a publisher or publication that might be a good fit for this. (While doing revisions and such in the meantime, of course.)

I would still like to do a second season. I don't think I'll aim for more than that. I'll be taking some time away from the project (once I do minor revisions of the remaining episodes so they're ready for critiques). But then in six months or so, I'll come back to the project and assess it at that point, decide what exactly to do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Club Report

My book club got together Wednesday night.  Typically we meet at the local bar for micro-brews, but this month, we met at the house of our of the people in our group for high tea.  We had done the same last year once--a couple of the guys bid on the event in a charity auction.  So our drink of choice (for the first part of the evening) was oolong tea, though the other teas were good as well.

Our book was Dead Souls by Ian Rankin.  I compared it a few times to an extended episode of Law & Order, and like that it was entertaining, sometimes very exciting, but not especially deep.  Even as little as I've read of crime fiction, this seemed to fit all the expectations I had of that genre (perhaps too much so?).  We managed to have a good discussion about it.  One of the guys in our group is from Edinburgh, so much of the discussion related as much to different aspects of the city as to the book itself.

Afterward, two of the guys in our group, both connoisseurs of single-malt whisky, brought out the wide range of varieties to educate us on what to expect and what to know.  I skipped the Glenfiddich (which they called the Budweiser of single malts), but most of the ones I tried were good.  There was a McAllen, a Scapa, and two of the more briney whiskies (plus another one or two that I didn't get a chance to taste).  The Laphroaig was definitely my favorite.

Our next book is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"March" at Every Day Poets

In quick succession here, another poem at EDP: "March."  This was written about the same time as the others that I've had come out recently.  It's a sonnet with two rules tweaked--the first, that I used slant rhyme and assonant rhyme instead of perfect rhyme.  The second is that I shortened the lines of the sestet by one stress each to give a sense of headlong rushing to the end.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Knot" up at Every Day Poets

My poem "Knot" is up today.  Another older poem, this one is basically a sonnet with the second quatrain surgically removed and replaced with lines from a Herman Melville poem.  Those Melville lines were some I read in a high school lit class, and they stayed with me, playing a part in my first attempt at a bit of poetic prose that I entered in a contest back then (and deservedly didn't win...) and then several years later in this poem.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A couple of small-press titles worthy of attention

I recently ordered a handful of books from Amazon, including two small press titles I was curious about and couldn't seem to find much discussion of online: Filaria by Brent Hayward and City Pier: Above & Below by Paul Tremblay.  (I was going to add cover images...but doing so crashed Chrome.  Hmmm, maybe I'll fix it in Firefox later.)

I'm not going to do a full review of either, but each is worthy of more attention than I've noticed them receiving (it could be that I just don't visit the right sites, of course).  Filaria is a horror-tinted SF set in a vast, crumbling underground world in which the network controlling the various aspects of the world is failing.  It weaves together the stories of four characters from different levels of this world as they all leave their familiarity of their own level to discover much more of the world...yet those four strands never directly touch each other but instead are bound (loosely) by secondary characters who overlap.  It's an ambitious goal to write this way, and for the most part I'd say it succeeded--one qualm I had about the story was that the character chosen to be the final viewpoint, Tran so, didn't seem the ideal one to end the story on, though I may change my mind on that as I think about the story more.  And as I said when I brought the book up in another forum, I'm a sucker for wildly inventive settings and tend to forgive much if the setting itself intrigues me.  This certainly fulfilled that for me.

The other book also had an intriguing setting.  City Pier (a 2007 release) is set in our own world in what's probably the relatively near future except for the fact that there's a city (presumably quite old, as no one quite knows its history) built 200 feet above the water on a massive pier, supported by the dead but still standing trunks of countless sequoias.  The book is a mosaic novella, I guess, made of four interlinked short stories.  The first three could probably stand well alone (and the third one, I think, should have been at least considered for year's-best-type lists and anthologies).  The fourth is the most structurally ambitious and brings the various other stories together nicely.  Stylistically and thematically these are hard-boiled stories (except the third one), grim and focused on those well outside of the city's power.  I don't have a lot of experience with hard-boiled or noir, so I don't have the full reference frame that some others might have, but coming at it as a widely-read general reader and a reader of the strange and bizarre, it was a gripping evocation of the city and the depths beneath it, certainly one of those cases where the metaphorical is made literal.

As I said, these aren't meant as complete reviews, and there are aspects of both books that I'm not completely sold on...but both are books that deserve more discussion and shouldn't just disappear without more readers knowing about them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chrome browser

I quite suddenly started having a problem with accessing hotmail with Firefox the other day--precipitated by no changes I made in either Firefox or my laptop. I would enter my password (correctly, no CapsLock on or anything of the sort) and just get a message that the password was incorrect. I briefly feared someone had hacked into my account and changed the password, but no--another hotmail account also didn't work, and both worked fine in Internet Explorer. I searched for any answers, but none of the suggestions I found matched the problems I was having.

I spent the weekend putting up with IE for my email and using Firefox for everything else, but I didn't like it. Only this morning did I remember that Chrome even exists--news of its release had passed in one ear and out the other. I installed it, though, and I like it so far. I'm still using Firefox for this and all the various free fiction I had open in tabs already (that I save every night and slowly chip away...much more slowly than new stories come out...). But I could see myself doing more and more over there. I haven't tried to really test out how it does at different things, but for email at least it's been very good.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Another poem sold to Every Day Poets

My poem "March" has sold to EDP. It's another older poem, but one I always thought deserved a good home. This one's a sonnet, more or less (it breaks a few rules, but intentionally for specific affects). More about it when it gets published (in March, perhaps?).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote from Maps of the Imagination

The subtitle of this book (by Peter Turchi) is "The Writer as Cartographer," so it's basically an extended metaphor taking what we know of and can learn from maps and applying that to the writing process. I'm enjoying the book a lot (understandably, as it combines two great loves I have: maps and writing). It's not a book of immediately applicable, concrete things to do with writing, but more a meditation almost, an exploration of the theme through a handful of more specific attributes of mapping that allows (requires, even) you to draw a lot of the implications for writing yourself. Even when it draws the connection more explicitly, it leaves the specifics of what exactly that means up to you, which is challenging but good in my opinion.

Anyway, here's the quote, in a section introduced by discussing how north-as-up is a convention so strong to many of us that seeing a map oriented differently can seem not just strange but wrong. Yet it is merely convention, something useful but not any more reflective of the world than any other choice someone might make. In the same way, writing rules and techniques can be conventions, useful for orienting ourselves but not inherently definitive:
But simply discovering them isn't enough. We need to devote ourselves to the ongoing practice of questioning the rules we have found most useful (including those we hear ourselves offering as advice) and the fundamental assumptions of our work, constantly checking for empty routine, throughtless employment.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Interview forthcoming

I've known this for a few days now, but in today's email from Every Day Poets is the list of February's poems (including one of mine late in the month), and within the comments from the editors is this:
Nicholas is preparing to interview our most read poets for November and December, Vanessa Gebbie and Daniel Ausema. You’ll be able to read those interviews in March.
I haven't received the interview questions yet, but it should be fun. So stay tuned!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Partial rejection

I had a partial request from an agent and it recently came back declined...and I'm not sure if that's more demoralizing than simply getting the initial query rejected or less. If the query is rejected, you can tell yourself that you probably just didn't get the brilliance of the novel you slaved away at effectively conveyed in the letter. Now getting the partial request is a huge ego boost, especially if it's a different agent in the agency than the one you addressed the query to, writing back surprisingly fast that he's intrigued by it. But then when the partial does get rejected, you can't hide behind self-delusions as easily. The fault is in the writing itself.

It's not all gloom, of course. Getting the partial is a good indication that the idea isn't ridiculously unmarketable or overused. So that's good. And I have high hopes that one of the other agencies I've queried will have a different opinion.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bar Book Club

We had our latest book club at Coopersmith Pub & Brewery on Thursday.

Beer of choice: Cask-conditioned Punjabi Pale Ale.

Book: Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. It was a great book, I thought, full of the fantastic not for its own sake but in support of the themes of the book, father-son relationships, the way we tell stories, etc. It let to some good discussions, mostly centered on the father-son theme. One scene that I especially liked involved the father having to pass through a particular town if he wanted to leave the small town where he grew up. Most people from the small town never managed to get past it, never managed to leave home...and while the specifics of it are very fantastic, that central idea seems so true to my experience growing up in a small town. And even my impression of the more suburban and urban friends from high school, actually.

We also talked a lot about the question of how much the stories are actually the stories that the father had told and how much are just the son's attempts to recreate his father's life through his own imagination.

We had quite a diverse selection for the next month and ended up going with Dead Souls by Ian Rankin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eye Color

In honor of MLK, would it be all right to say that I dream of a day when my fantasy characters are not judged of their worthiness to fulfill a prophecy based on the color of their eyes? I'm so sick of "striking" blue eyes and "brilliant" blue eyes and permutations of that. It's not that I dislike blue eyes--I have them, in fact, and I don't know if they're strikingly so or not, but in some pictures they certainly jump out. It's just that every time a character's eye color is mentioned, it seems that it's blue, or once in a while green, especially paired with red hair. My son has the most beautiful hazel eyes, shading toward brown as he gets older (I don't know yet what color my daughter's eyes will be). Why must so many writers point out their character's blue eyes, or why must the fact of their blue eyes be so significant?

To be fair, my fantasy characters are unlikely to ever be the subject of a prophecy at all because I shy away from that, but the point remains--blue eyes far too often signify "good" or "trustworthy" or "important" in fantasy stories. When that assumption is broken, when no ranking is implied by eye color of any type, then go back to having blue-eyed heroes and heroines when there's a reason for it. Until then, question yourself everytime you're tempted to mention a character's eye color.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Writing the Real World

The short story I'm currently working on is set in the real world in more-or-less contemporary times (there are some hints that it's near-future). This is strange territory for me. In the past few years, I can think of a couple of flash pieces that are set at least partly in today's real world and one magical realism short story that references real world countries. In that last, though, the real world countries are exotic locales to the narrator, and his--mundane to him--village might as well be an invented world to our perspective. And in the flash pieces, the this-world-ness is pretty low-key, not especially important. Otherwise everything I've done going back quite a few years has been unapologetically other-world (whether evoking past, future, or something tangentially bizarre).

The story I'm working on now, though, draws deeply from its setting. I've mentioned before how much I value setting and why that typically translates into secondary world. So it's interesting to take that same focus and train it on the real world. It nearly qualifies as regional fiction (though still certainly fantasy of a sort).

I'm drawing a lot on my childhood for that. Not for the story itself, but for the setting. So it's fun to revisit in my thoughts the fields of my hometown, to treat them seriously--neither mocking nor romanticizing. I frequently use my experiences to add texture and realism to my writing, but there it's drastically transformed and often at the level of character motivation and memory. It's fun and quite different to take my knowledge of where I grew up and use it right on the surface of the story.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not suddenly going to become a different type of writer. I expect the next story I do will be firmly in some invented landscape--though perhaps I'll be a bit more open to this-world stories. But I think this is teaching me something about using vividly individual details to bring another layer to the writing. I don't know exactly what or exactly how it will translate into other writing, but once I get done, I intend to look through what I've written and see how it might carry over.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"The Last Great Clown Hunt"

Gotta love this story from the November/December issue of Weird Tales: "The Great Clown Hunt" by Chris Furst. It's truly bizarre, full of humor...but not light fantasy at all, at least not what I think when I hear that label. There's something quite moving about it, about the clowns and their rebellion and...well, better you go read it instead of me telling you what it's about.
The next Italo Calvino*?

After being told that his mommy misses him and stating that he misses her too, my son asked, "What if Mommy were split in two and the two parts went away from each other...do you think she would miss herself?"

*Calvino has a novella called The Cloven Viscount about a man who is split in two by a cannonball during a battle and each half returns home, each half trying to live according to its nature. The English edition I have of it has it paired with The Nonexistent Knight, which is also a fun story.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Basketball League

Tonight was our second game of basketball. We lost. Badly. Well, supposedly the other team ran the score up to 90-something last week, so at least we kept them to 76. Right? Doesn't seem like a great accomplishment. I remember this team from two years ago, though. I would be the shortest player on their team...yet there was some debate if I should be the one to take the opening jump for our team. There's a rec league and a competitive league, and for the life of me I cannot understand why they bother signing up for the rec league. I'm sure we won't be among the best teams in the league, but I don't see any teams likely to give them a difficult game at all.

So what's the fun in dominating every week like that? I just don't get it. Big fish in small pond syndrome, I guess.

I don't talk sports much here--I'm not the typical plop down and watch every game kind of person. But I love to play just about any sport. Soccer/football is certainly at the top, with Ultimate (frisbee) close behind, but I do like playing basketball and volleyball a lot too...and really anything that doesn't require too much expensive equipment (or expensive course fees) to play.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Stifling?

I see it come up often about this approach or that being stifling to a writer's creativity. Most often it comes in response to the question of how much outlining or planning a novel should have. There's a part of me that's sympathetic in theory--it certainly fits with what preconceived notions I had before really trying to write. Now, though, I've written everything from completely on the fly to following a very detailed plan, and I think the claim is silly.

I'm not saying an outline is always the answer. I stand completely behind most of the stories that I've written without planning (just as I do behind those with). But there's nothing inherently stifling about that kind of planning. There are at least two reasons why. First, creativity can enter the planning stage just as well as it can while writing. Characters and events can surprise you at any stage of the process. And second, the outline (at least when I've used one) is never a rigid one. If something comes up as you write, nothing prevents you from changing the way the story goes because of that.

Now in some of the most recent conversations I've been in on, the argument gets couched in slightly different words--I would find it stifling, they say. It's hard to argue that. After all, there's a strong chance they would. But at the same time, the way it's worded I get the impression that they dismiss the idea out of hand without giving it any consideration at all. I'm a strong believer in trying new things, new ways, new approaches to writing and seeing what happens. Those stifled ones might find their work coming alive like never before if they planned. Or maybe they wouldn't...but they'd still learn something from the experience. Also, the wording seems to cast a judgment of disdain on the whole process of planning, as if those writers who do outline their work can't possibly meet, for one example, the character-centric kind of stories they prefer. A character can come alive and be just as dynamic regardless of how the writer approached the story. A poorly written character will remain poorly written whether the writer planned everything or let everything develop as it went.

So don't mind me while I detail the exact character arcs of my next story...or while I discover them as I write...or whatever other approach I decide to try next to continue to challenge myself.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A second poem at Every Day Poets

My poem "The Romantic and the Pragmatist, Biking" is up today at Every Day Poets. This is another relatively old poem, though this time not one from a college creative writing class. It was originally a longer, more involved juxtaposition that belabored the two approaches, but I ended up decided to leave most of it unstated and aim for a more minimalist-poetry approach. One version was even shorter, as a haiku...or at least in the superficial, syllable-counting definition of haiku, but I couldn't quite get it to feel right as a true haiku, even with removing the strict syllable count.

I'm not sure how much it comes across, but the intent was that neither the romantic nor the pragmatist was supposed to be presented as better in some absolute way, but simply that sometimes I'm each--dreaming of flying or simply pedaling so hard I practically am flying.

(Happy New Year, by the way!)