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Conundrum

Recently my sister invited me to submit a story to a group that sells themed anthologies for charity. I haven’t read the group’s previous work, but the theme of the next collection intrigued me, so I wrote a story with intent to submit.

After a couple of false starts and a lot of nothing, I finished the story. My writers’ group delighted in it. I went back to the charity group – with second thoughts now, as a charity hadn’t been selected, and what if I didn’t like it, what if I’d rather sell my story – to find that I had only a quarter the preferred minimum word count.

I’m not going to quadruple the story’s length; that would entirely not work. I messaged the group, to ask if the minimum was firm: the answer was “kinda” and “we’ll get back to you.” They haven’t.

Do I wait? Do I submit elsewhere in a hurry, and hope for a response before the charity group’s deadline? Do I submit without concern for the charity? The magazine I would most like to appear in is not currently accepting submissions, but what if they open next week? Next month? Do I submit to one of my old standbys, because why the hell not? Last time one magazine got back to me in 24 hours…

It’s possible that this is why writers are crazy.

Delayed gratification

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

In truth, I’ve fallen well behind of late. Job and life circumstances pushed my writing aside, and even though the schedule is clearing up, after so much time it’s hard to get back on the horse. I almost have to force myself to sit down and type, and I’m rarely happy with the result. There’s a reason conventional wisdom advises daily word counts: it’s easy enough to slack off, and so much harder to get started again.

Still, I’m getting there. And in spite of so little activity I am not without news. My local library put out a call to local authors in the fall, inviting submissions to the e-book catalog. Through an agreement with Smashwords, the library would purchase the chosen books and make them available to patrons. I have a “why not?” attitude when it comes to this sort of thing, so after some consideration I selected and submitted “The Edge.”

A few weeks ago I received notification of a purchase on Smashwords. Very little data accompanies these notifications; I assumed it was a friend who’d let his coupon expire and was embarrassed to ask for another. Then, yesterday, I received this:

“Congratulations!  Your book, The Edge, has been selected to be added to the library’s e-book collection as part of the Library Writers Project.  We had nearly 150 submissions to the Library Writers Project this year and yours was a standout.  Your book will be featured on the Multnomah County Library OverDrive web site, which is accessed by 20,000 unique users monthly.”

By this time I’d forgotten about the project. Of course it was a delight to receive the email: “Congratulations!” and “standout” and “20,000 unique users” are all wonderful to hear. But the real treat is this:

“The Edge,” at Multnomah County Library

My book. My library. How cool is that?

Worth the wait

‘Counter Clockwise’ is now available on Smashwords.

In other news, National Novel Writing Month has begun. Another thirty frantic days of typing typing typing. Or not – I won’t be participating this year, with a story in need of editing and a schedule still recovering from recent upheaval. However, I have NaNo to thank for a couple of favorite works, and as I did last year I’d like to make those works available in honor of the season.

‘Dreamscapes’ was the result of my first NaNo, a winner in spite of later edits that cut the word count nearly in half. ‘Dreamscapes’ is half off at Smashwords for the month of November, with coupon code YT86Q.

‘His Brother’s Keeper’ also resulted from a successful Nano, along with a string of other projects that never amounted to anything. ‘His Brother’s Keeper’ is FREE for the rest of the month, with coupon code ZS94F.

If you’re writing, be inspired. If you’re reading, be entertained.

 

Constructive rejection

Finally, after more than 4 months, Analog SF&F rejected ‘Counter Clockwise.’

Unlike ‘No Such Place as Home,’ however, ‘Counter Clockwise’ was rejected by email. And unlike any prior Analog submission, ‘Counter Clockwise’ received positive feedback from the editor.

That’s progress.

Of course, a rejection always comes with good news: Escape Velocity, the print collection including ‘The Edge’ and ‘No Such Place as Home’ as well as ‘Counter Clockwise,’ is now available to the book-buying public. EVEN BETTER: It’s currently 50% off.

Buy here, now, for a limited time: Escape Velocity 50% Off!

People who prefer their literature in digital form can already find two of those three stories on Smashwords. Rest assured that ‘Counter Clockwise’ will join them soon. Stay tuned!

Planetary haiku

Three gleaming planets
lined up in the eastern sky
covered in robots.

Lately I’ve been waking up to Venus shining in my bedroom window. Yesterday I learned she wasn’t alone; this morning I went out to see Venus, Mars, and Jupiter lined up in the sky, with the crescent moon shining overhead and Orion keeping watch alongside. Mercury might have been visible too, if I’d had a clear horizon.

Earthsky’s Visible Planets

Mars is much made of these days, with its water and its Ridley Scott movie and its Curiosity Rover. The red planet has quite a complement of robots aboard: active rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, orbiters Odyssey, Express, MRO, MOM, and Maven, and a whole litter of past missions. Venus most recently played host to Messenger, but has its own share of defunct machines scattered about. Galileo orbited Jupiter for two years and dropped an atmospheric probe before falling to its own demise in the gas giant’s eternal haze. It was startling to look up at those specks in the sky and realize that humanity has touched them.

Saturn is an evening star these days. If Portland’s own eternal haze should lift tonight, I’ll look for that gleaming yellow speck and think of Cassini.

Earth, the pale blue dot.

Earth, the pale blue dot.

It appears that reading about writing helps me write.

‘Generation One’ came almost whole out of reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story formed and guided ‘Dreamscapes’ and ‘The Edge.’ All kinds of things came out of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Now, I’ve been dry for close to five months. Finishing ‘Nicky’s Dragon’ was a struggle. ‘The Way’ has started and stopped a dozen times. So has ‘Cambaria.’ No new ideas, no new beginnings.

This week I picked up Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, a collection of essays by genre writers on topics from title to character to setting to sitting down in front of the keyboard and getting things done. This week I wrote 4000 new words on an old idea, fresh and alive again, and a thousand or so on two entirely new ones. I wrote a half-dozen blog posts, and added content to a bunch of character bios on Fanlore. I’ve hardly gotten any actual work done; I’ve written in notebooks waiting for the bus, in the car, on my home computer for three hours at dinnertime, an entire morning at my job. I don’t want to stop.

It’s probably a coincidence. But that doesn’t mean that next time I get stuck, I won’t pick up a book.

Since both fiction and grief have been frequent themes here, I’d like to share a comment I made over at The Mary Sue:

Fiction is a wonderful way to process real-life trauma. Reality is too real sometimes; you can’t let yourself feel what you need to feel, it’s just too big and too hard. But in fiction you can let it in.

I lost my mom when I was a teen, both too young and too old to process it appropriately. Since then, two fictional characters have given me access to that process. One, I won’t identify, because you might read the book and oh boy not seeing it coming was everything. We’ll just say she was so like my mom from the beginning: taking care of everyone, not worrying about anything, just handling it, basically just eternal in the way moms are. Having a POV character wake up to find her GONE was traumatizing in the worst/best way. I definitely dealt with some unprocessed emotion after reading that book.

The other was Lis Sladen/Sarah Jane Smith. The actress, also like my mom in many ways, had just passed when I finally watched ‘School Reunion.’ The whole conversation about how things change, and time passes, and everything ends – especially given that she was already gone, her impact made – was incredibly empowering to me.

So yeah, fiction can cause you grief, but fiction can also help you deal with that grief, in ways that sometimes the ‘real’ world cannot.

(Original here.)

Also, here’s the poem I wrote for that first, unidentified character (beware, there’s a clue in the comments): Misunderstanding

and for Sarah Jane: Angel and Goodbye, Sarah Jane

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