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In the beginning…

…the sun wandered the universe alone.

As flaming balls of gas go, he was neither the largest nor the smallest. Neither the oldest nor the youngest, the hottest nor the coolest. He was middling, yellow, ninety percent hydrogen, and lonely. Since his youth he had traveled an outer spiral arm of the galaxy, far from his brothers and sisters and the nursery of his birth. From distant nebulae, the galaxy’s crucible, new stars emerged daily – but not one looked his way.

What would it take, he thought, to get some company around here?

Eons passed.

It wasn’t a single event that changed everything forever. Rather, the random bits and sparkles of space paused in their travels, tugged inward by the sun’s unexceptional but not inconsiderable gravity. Bit by bit they converged. A sprinkling became a handful, an aggregation became a clump and then – not all at once but imperceptibly as the turning of the universe itself – accretion began.

The sun rejoiced. Broad discs of matter surrounded him now, shining prettily in his light. In broad swathes they drew inward, each upon itself. Slowly they grew, becoming solid, round, gaining mass and little gravities all their own. Some even cultivated moons. Proud Grandpa Sun beamed more brightly than ever.

Each world also developed a unique personality. Peppy Mercury zipped around his orbit on winged sandals, blazing hot and glacial all at once. Reclusive Venus obscured her face with impenetrable clouds. The outer orbs, the gas giants, held themselves aloof beyond their asteroid wall, Mars their brother standing stoic guard inside.

From her earliest days the Earth knew she was special. Of all her siblings only she could gather liquid water to her surface. Only she could boast green growing things, creatures great and small that clambered over her varied crust. Only she shared her orbit with a single large moon, a partner tugging with her modest gravity to keep Earth’s face new and fresh. Only she had something more than rocks to share.

“What’s this?” said Venus, crushing a tiny contraption of metal and electrics to dust.

“A gift,” said the Earth, shielding hurt feelings from her grumpy sister. “My people want to know you better.”

“Hmph,” said Venus, smashing three more.

“Luna loves hers,” said the Earth. Her little friend beamed, showing off her souvenirs: craters, lumps of metal, a tiny splash of color across her achromic surface.

“Hmph,” said Venus again, but she let the next one land.

“Can I try?” called Mars from his backdrop of tumbling stone. “Whee!”

Soon, all of Earth’s brothers and sisters had received a visitor. The asteroids and a wandering comet were not left out. Pluto, too, the brightest of the outer worlds, smiled as his brief guest hurtled by. Even the Sun felt the glow of admiring mechanical eyes.

Then one day, one of the gifts escaped. Voyager traveled boldly into the unknown. Her sister had fallen behind, and after so many long years she no longer possessed the strength to send a simple message. She had seen so many wonders, so many worlds alien to her birthplace, but now she was on to something greater. The sun’s gravity, unexceptional but not inconsiderable, began to fade behind her. Soon, any moment now, she would be free.

Since that day, the gaze of the Universe has turned. The sun and his children no longer wander alone.

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More than halfway through the month and I haven’t posted about NaNoWriMo!

Obviously I’m not participating this year. Not only has my personal life been hectic (travel, sister’s wedding) but I’m in the midst of editing the latest version of The Way. This story has been in mental residence for close to 5 years now; if there’s a chance I can finish it and get it right, I’m not going to let myself get distracted.

That doesn’t mean you can’t. Prior Nano projects Dreamscapes and His Brother’s Keeper are only $0.99 for the next 30 days – through December 16 – with coupon codes below. And just for fun, Counter Clockwise is free.

Enjoy!

Dreamscapes, 2011 Nano winner: DT42V

His Brother’s Keeper, 2013 Nano participant: CB83L

Counter Clockwise: LF76F

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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.

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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?

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‘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.

 

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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!

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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.

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