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Conundrum update

A while ago I was considering participating in an anthology for charity. My sister provided original art for their first volume, and money raised selling the book went to a group supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence. Volume 2 called for origin stories: old religions told newly, entirely new ones invented, character origins, however writers chose to interpret the phrase, “In the beginning…”

Intrigued by the concept, I quickly produced a story which my writers’ group described as “Just So Stories meets OMNI Magazine.” It’s fun and cute, and also brief at 500 words – too brief, as it turned out, for the anthology has a 2000-word minimum. I sent a message asking if the minimum was firm.

While waiting for a reply, I began to have second thoughts about my submission. I hadn’t read Volume 1; what if the editors had no taste, and my story ended up collected with a bunch of clunkers? They also hadn’t (still haven’t) selected a charity. What if they chose one I could not support? I considered sending the story off to a pay magazine. Mostly, though, I did nothing.

Finally, word came back that the minimum was firm. The editors offered to help me “expand” my story. No thanks, I thought; not going to mess with a good thing. I turned back to the pay magazines – only to find that every single one was closed to submissions.

More nothing. Then F&SF opened last month. I dawdled and postponed. I really wanted to submit to Uncanny Magazine, a new-ish publication specializing in new ideas and new writers not getting seen by the mainstream. I supported them on Kickstarter in their first year and have loved the result. But they remained closed. So I did nothing, intending to send the story off to F&SF and yet not doing it.

Then, today – mere days after I signed up to support the magazine’s Year 3 – Uncanny Magazine opened to unsolicited submissions. I flew to the web page, ready to roll.

And encountered their 750-word minimum.

Fine. F&SF it is.

I don’t remember writing this, but I definitely still think it:

(from Fandom Psychology at themarysue.com)

This is definitely a question I have had since becoming a fan. I was never a fangirl as a child; I liked pop singers and baseball players, but they were arguably real people, and I was inarguably a teen going through a phase. In any case, none of it prepared me for what would happen when I started watching Doctor Who in my thirties.

Fiction allows us to experience events outside our own lives and to become immersed in other people’s points of view. It teaches empathy and broadens our minds. Imagination and storytelling are powerful human traits; fictional characters are as real to us as historical figures, people in other countries, even family members who passed on before we were born. We choose to empathize with Frodo in the same way we choose to empathize with Anne Frank, and our minds treat them exactly the same. But fiction has a cushion of safety around it, one that makes it easier to process. There are strong parallels between the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts and the aftermath of the Holocaust of Europe; a person can learn as well from either, but one pill is a lot easier to swallow.

It doesn’t make you weird to fall in love with a fictional character. It makes you human.

No further comment required.

 

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.