Sunday, December 18, 2011

In which there is counting

It's the end of the year, almost. I shouldn't be writing this post, because there are a few things still to come in before the real year-end, but I find myself at the computer just now with an urge to do it, and I can always update you guys again later, right?

EDIT: within 24 hours of the original version of this post, I received both a rejection and an acceptance, which are now included in the data below!

Number of new stories published: 1
Number of podcasts published: 1
Number of stories subbed: 6 (new record!)
Rejections: 8
New sales to pro markets: 1
Reprint sales: 2 (1 podcast, 1 anthology)
Fastest response: Clarkesworld (less than 1 day)
Slowest response: Tor.com (still pending, subbed in July 2010)
Most rejected story: 6 and counting
Rejections due to closed markets or cancelled publications: 3 (bad luck year in that regard)
Milestones: joined SFWA

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In which I will be anthologized!

Brit Mandelo has made the official announcement of the table of contents for Beyond Binary here, and I'm in it! This looks like such an awesome collection of stories:

"Sea of Cortez" by Sandra McDonald
"Eye of the Storm" by Kelley Eskridge
"Fisherman" by Nalo Hopkinson
"Pirate Solutions" by Katie Sparrow
"'A Wild and a Wicked Youth'" by Ellen Kushner
"Prosperine When it Sizzles" by Tansy Rayner Roberts
"The Fairy Cony-Catcher" by Delia Sherman
"Palimpsest" by Catherynne M. Valente
"Another Coming" by Sonya Taaffe
"Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot" by Claire Humphrey
"The Ghost Party" by Richard Larson
"Bonehouse" by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
"Sex with Ghosts" by Sarah Kanning
"Spoiling Veena" by Keyan Bowes
"The Metamorphosis Bud" by Liu Wen Zhuang
"Schrodinger's Pussy" by Terra LeMay

Beyond Binary will be coming out in May from Lethe Press.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In which I have a new story

It's tentatively called "The Root of the Root" and it has been in the world for almost an hour now while I dicked around with poetry books until I decided not to call it any of the things I'd been thinking about. It may change again before I call it done.

Pretty things: Solveig's cardigan; a puppy; a whole lot of cats, all of whom are based on actual cats I know (because you can do that with cats, although it's kind of inappropriate to do it with people)

Horrible things: carbonaceous sputum; 24-hour WalMart; sad unused baby shower presents

Soundtrack: Olinka's "Puss in Boots" mixtape; Fleetwood Mac, of all the damned things; Fever Ray

Sustenance: Aleve and gunpowder tea.

Fetishes: decade-old Lululemon hoodie. I've worn it so much that the cuffs have torn. There is nothing else in my closet so comforting.

This story is a happy story. It is also a story written by me, so the happy takes a while to kick in. I will look forward to seeing if it sells quicker or slower than my less-happy stories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In which I digress for a moment to talk about food

Since I'm a fiction writer, not a food writer, someone else is welcome to this idea: "How a Thin Person Eats". It would be kind of a diet book, but instead of focusing on how heavy people lose weight, it would focus on how lighter people maintain their lighter weight.

I have my doubts about the current thinking around weight. There's a lot of judging and shame around fatness, which I hate. I don't think everyone should have to be thin. I would like people to feel good about themselves at whatever size they're at, and choose their foods and exercises based on what they love.

For people who have fat they want to shed, I think there's too much focus on restrictive, uncomfortable diets that might get results in the short term but are horribly hard to translate into long-term habits.

I am a thin person, and my body composition is very healthy (plenty of muscle, sturdy bones). I have never dieted or restricted my food choices. Depending on what you believe about diet science, this could mean I have a wickedly high metabolism, or I get tons of exercise, or it could mean I have accidentally hit on a sustainable diet which doesn't lead to weight gain.

So I wonder--how do other thin people eat? What are the habits we share which are healthy and could be adopted by someone who wants to become sustainably thinner?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In which there is a podcast!

The mellifluous Julia Rios reads my story "Who in Mortal Chains" at PodCastle.

I've never been recorded before. Let me just say: it rocks.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In which I cannot hear my new Handsome Furs due to the air show

It's even worse than a balloon party around here: I have to sit, stiffly cringing, awaiting a horribly loud noise, which I know beyond a doubt is coming, only I don't know when. And every time it does, it's going to make me flinch visibly, spill coffee, and overuse italics.

Also, the cats. They don't have italics, or coffee, but they have the visible flinching.

In which the bell tolls

It actually does. Not for me, I assume. It's somewhere up the block, and it's probably one of those knife-sharpening people, rare these days but still to be found on occasion here in Little Portugal.

Sunday morning, cloudy. Wasps in the rose briars and butterflies in the tall grass. Neighbours strolling to the laundromat. Silence in my part of town.

My friends, it is a good day to write.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In which it's always better on holiday

I saw this destroyer in Boston, on a precious day off following a business trip. I was impressed with how much depth it has below the waterline. You can only see this depth in drydock, or if you're a good diver.

On my return I discovered that two of the magazines to which I've submitted are undergoing editorial changes. Catherynne M. Valente is stepping down from Apex, and Ann VanderMeer will no longer be editing Weird Tales.

These situations aren't identical: as far as I can tell, Valente is stepping down to give herself more time to write, which is laudable, while VanderMeer has been let go by Marvin Kaye, who has bought the magazine with the intention of editing it himself.

I am not a prolific writer, and when I have something to sell, I want to place it with a market where it's a really good fit, both for the audience and for the editor. I chose to submit to Apex because I love Valente's writing, and to Weird Tales because I love VanderMeer's editorial taste. My good impression of VanderMeer was further borne out by a fantastic note she sent me on my first submission--she didn't buy it, but she not only encouraged me to submit again, she also gave me helpful suggestions on who else might buy the story in question, and even offered to give more if those didn't pan out. That is a rare and amazing level of consideration, and it made me all the more eager to sell her something great.

Similarly, I love selling to Strange Horizons: my stories are in humbling company there, but also my experiences with Jed Hartman and Karen Meisner have been wonderful.

With both Apex and Weird Tales, I've read the magazines only since the current editors took over. I don't know if I'll continue to read them or submit to them under new management--but I find Valente's vote of confidence in her successor a lot more reassuring than the strange takeover situation at Weird Tales.

I don't have very many stories to sell, and I want to sell them to people who I think have something to offer me in my development as a writer. I have little clout here--fiction is very much a buyer's market--but I will be considering over the next week or so whether I want to withdraw my story from consideration at Weird Tales. I hope Marvin Kaye has something confidence-inspiring to say about his editorial directions for the magazine... but whether he does or not, I know I'll be submitting to Ann VanderMeer again, wherever she lands.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In which I play with Babelfish

Here's a paragraph from the middle of the story I'm working on. I used Babelfish to translate it into Mandarin and back again. ...It was a bit clearer in the original.

"The new cat, the starting, strolls by to smell the decision in mine face. His student opened in the shadow width. He invested his nose to me, and his whisker has itched my cheek."

Here's something from the first scene:

"In the air, contains the fat wool one kind of sickness warm smell or the cotton material: I imagined a rug merchant to try from any clean 50 year stain once was jewelry bright kilim."

In slightly less random news, I am officially a member of SFWA, as of today. Also, I recently sold a story to PodCastle, and this will be my first audio publication.

Monday, July 18, 2011

In which it is Story Day!

My latest work: "Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot".

I had a lot of trepidation about this story, and I'm so glad the wonderful editors at Strange Horizons gave it a home.

My high school actually did perform this play with an all-female cast. I can't remember who they were, sadly--and none of them were Ginevra--but they did a wonderful and very memorable job. Ladies, if any of you ever happen to read this, thanks for absolutely laying waste to my little teenage mind, in the best possible way.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In which I wonder where the last month has gone

On submissions, some of it. You see, I've decided to sell some poems.

I wrote them, after all. I'm a writer--a professional writer, even, technically. Ergo the things I write should be good for something other than sitting in files.

We'll see if the poetry markets agree.

Also, on productive things such as my bike race, and a fair bit of work-work, and also on less productive but mandatory awesomeness such as Pride.

What hasn't really been happening, though, is Words On Page. I wouldn't say I've ever had that thing called writers' block, but it does occasionally occur that I just don't really do it. Or I do some, but not enough, or I do a lot, but nothing good. June was one of those months.

July, luckily for me, is proving better so far. Today's excellent work: hauling "Houdini" back on track, by main force and the application of some Elvis Costello.

This story will probably have nothing to do with Houdini by the time it's done, but it will have to do with a woman I saw weeping on the downtown 6 between Bleecker Street and Astor Place, and with Puss in Boots, and with a pair of Wehrmachts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In which there is new Ideomancer

Right here!

This month's issue includes a story that I found unusually fascinating: "Chrestomathy", by Anatoly Belilovsky. I like all of what we publish, but this story is right up my personal alley, as it is about Pushkin and duels and lost writings, the dissemination of thoughts and the way history's shaped by their thinkers.

Enjoy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In which I am in metaphorical boot camp

It's not as sweaty as Real Boot Camp. Also, no tear gas, which makes it a hell of a lot less boot-campy. (Yes, that is the voice of experience speaking.) However, it is a relatively short time period to get myself into fighting form, and therefore it merits the comparison.

I'm always telling myself that I think with my feet (or with my fists, depending on how angry I am...) and so at some point in winter, I decided I'd kick off the summer season with two charity races: a 5k running relay and a 25k mountainbike race. Because of the wet, snowy spring, training commenced a bit late, and then I had to throw a few business trips into the mix, and so I'm here in mid May, feeling like a bear just rolled out of the cave, lumbering around trying to get my blood flowing.

Also, all of my short stories are turning into novels. I just had two really nice rejections in which editors encouraged me to send more stuff, and I have no stuff to send.

Fortunately, there's a cure... it's not an accident that I'm in two writing groups.

The common thread of all of the above is that I hate embarrassing myself by failing to live up to my own word. I give myself a goal? Whatever. I give you my goal? I'm going to cross the finish line if I have to do it on bare rims and bleeding stumps.

So:
(1) Cross those finish lines.
(2) New story for June.
(3) New chapter for June.
(4) The kicker: final draft of Hour of the Hag by my birthday. I am not going to start another year without a novel to market. This is my Jesus year, my Byron year, the year by which all kinds of the world's heroes have already made their mark and then died, and since apparently I won't be growing out of my ego any time soon, I'm at least going to get that Goddamned book in the mail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In which I take a time-out


...from writing, in order to do this. I built wheels!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Early signs of genius !!!

Our writing group had the wonderful idea of sharing a bit of our juvenilia tomorrow, so I've just spent an hour going through the files I kept of my pre-teen stories. Which are extensive. And--shocker!--awful.

Picture, if you will, reams of three-ring notebook paper, solid-blocked with paragraphless blue ballpoint, script veering crazily through the three different handwriting styles I was trying on for size. Doodles on every available margin (UFOs, birds, eyes, hearts, coffins, and my name paired with the surname of a guy from my sixth grade class).

This manuscript is my first novel, The Five Realms, begun when I was eleven. It features twelve different protagonists, none of whom know each other until they're thrown together on a massive world-saving quest. I wrote everyone's origin story and most of the introductions, and then I skipped straight to the (tragic) ending. (I figured the part in the middle would be easy to fill in later, since it mainly consisted of the cast riding around killing monsters.)

Since I'm a masochist... have some sample prose!

The hero's love interest:

"Her eyes were brown, glimmering with unshed tears, and the set of her red-lipped mouth was full of desperate courage as if it was a last stand. Her dark gold hair was whipped around her face by the wind of war."

The villain's first victim:

"He was utterly sizzled. His flesh had melted to the stones of the street and couldn't be scraped off. The body had to be left on the street until it disintegrated."

And this adjectival bit of cliche bingo:

"It was sunset on the Plains of Akhna, and the blood-red rays of the dying orb lit the barren land with a fiery light. The Company rode across the wasteland at great speed, forming a fierce picture: twelve terrible figures, armed to the teeth, galloping over the flat plain like a wind through grass. Then one broke away from the rest, spurring his tired horse to greater speed, desperate to reach some unknown goal..."

Oh, and I didn't know how to spell quite as well as I thought I did--poor Cheif Preist!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Fantasy of Being Published

A while back I read a memorable piece by Kate Harding on the fantasy of being thin. Harding is a fat acceptance blogger who writes movingly, in this post, about how much time she spent believing that being thin would mean "becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has".

This is how I was feeling about being a professional writer. Where one draws that line is actually kind of unimportant--does it start with your first sale? First pro sale? SFWA membership? Agent? Novel contract? Not all of those things have happened for me yet, but I'm very aware today that some of them have, and that I have not yet magically become an entirely different person.

I am still a person who talks too much and then feels dumb about it. I still don't have great boundaries. I'm secretive about some things and I overshare others. I read blogs instead of working; I work instead of calling my family; I call my family instead of cleaning the catbox. I am vain. I spend a lot of money on clothes and not as much as I'd like on charity. I want to be eco-friendly and then I forget my reusable coffee cup when I go to Starbucks. I want to be admired and then I swear like a pirate in front of my superiors. I want to be healthy and then I eat potato chips and Irish coffee for lunch.

And I want, more than anything, every day, to receive another letter telling me that I have been found worthy. And each time this happens, I am overjoyed for an hour or an evening, but I am still myself, and I still have to wash my socks and attend that marketing meeting and buy butter and tampons.

What does this all have to do with the cute cat picture, you may ask. That is Arnold, who had to be put down a few days ago due to advanced kidney disease.

I was not there. I was on a business trip. My husband was with him, and called me from the vet, and after he hung up I sat there in tears in a brewpub in Manhattan, knowing that he had the harder task, and still wishing I could be there, instead of coming home days later to an emptier house.

Today's that day, in my house, without my cat for the first time in sixteen years. And I think what would make it better would be selling a story today. And I know this is a fantasy, and that when I sell my next story, I will still be a person with only one cat.

What will really make the difference is nothing anyone else can do. What will really make it better, the only thing that will really make it better, is the conversion of this, my memory, my emotion, into story. I am still, only, and always, a person who does that thing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Auto Show, clairification style

One of my fellow writers (Nicole, that was you, right?) says my novel is like a low-budget film: the settings are few, small and usually indoor, and the characters keep returning to the same places.

In true low-budget film style, one of these settings is a car. When the protagonist is in his car, the scenery going by could be pure stock footage.

The car itself, on the other hand, is a vitally important set-piece and I need to be able to describe it accurately and richly. Thus: the Auto Show.

At the Auto Show, people let writers in to look at cars that are worth more than houses. The car in the picture is a Bentley Mulsanne. Two nice women let me inside the ropes to take pictures of it!

I now know the colour, sheen, specs and even the smell of this car. I cannot share the smell with you here, but as for the rest:


I was not, unfortunately, allowed to sit in it. Or touch it.

I did discover, incidentally, that the Auto Show staff were uniformly polite and considerate toward those of their patrons who walk with a cane.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In which I have structure

This, my friends, is Hour of the Hag. Each sticky is a scene. Notes in black are what currently happens in the scene; notes in pink are things I have to change or add. Pink stickies are scenes to add. Blue for Maksim's POV, green for Lissa, white for Nick, and yellow for poor orphaned Jonathan who really shouldn't have his own POV scene, since there's only one of it.

I'm surprised by how even the scene distribution is. I am unsurprised by how much more I have to do before I can call this thing done. This sticky-map is for the transition from draft 2 to draft 3 and final. I don't have much sense of how long it will actually take--weeks rather than months, but other than that, it depends on how much I wallow. I have three vac days to kick it off. Hard burn to April--I'd like to get it in the post to agents by May.

Oh, and behind the sticky-map, that thing is a pillow with a carrot on it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March issue of Ideomancer!

...is here for you to enjoy.

Other awesome things in the pillow book of March:

One has unused vacation days and a plan to spend them writing in coffee shops.

One has tickets to an all-girl fight card.

One's arms are bruised by kettlebells.

One's neighbour, who is a cat, leaves the house after the long winter shut in, and greets one from the doorstep.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In which I... er... it's NSFW

So I'm writing my first sex scene.

This is me we're talking about, so it's definitely a necessary, character-driven sex scene--my people are acting according to their natures and this is what must happen. I didn't intend to set it up this way, but it's what they would do, so it will be done.

And... this is me we're talking about, so it's between my two gay magicians. And one of them is a person in a wheelchair.

I'll say this: the research is interesting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In which we receive zombies

Dozens of them, in fact. Hundreds. More zombies than I can easily describe.

Why? Because I asked my brain to supply the solution to a writing problem. I asked it to give me the solution in the form of a dream. This strategy has actually worked, in the past, now and then.

This time? Well, I am not writing a book about zombies, so this answer was not exactly what I was looking for.

They did, however, explode quite satisfyingly when I shot them with my crossbow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In which I have elderflower nectar


As of an hour ago, I have five stories out on submission. This is a new high water mark for me.

(Two of them are reprint submissions, but still.)

I also had the jawdropping realization this week that I have a personal theme. All of my novels, and many of my short stories, are about pairs of magicians, one mentoring the other.

In trying to trace back the origins of this very persistent meme in my own life, I came back to the Vasilissa story. This story has been interpreted by Clarissa Pinkola Estes as a story about women's intuition, as Wikipedia reminds me; I remember reading Estes at the direction of my therapist, when I was in university, and thinking that she basically took a whole pile of interesting old stories about women and said that they were about intuition, which galled me a bit, since I don't possess much of that thing.

To me, this story feels like it's about power. Not necessarily feminine power, either, not in some essentialist way: we're talking about flaming-eyed skulls, people. Clear, burning sight.

Baba Yaga, the elderly witch who lives in the forest, teaches Vasilissa, the young seeker, how to wield power, in the form of the flaming skull. Vasilissa wields it against her enemies (it burns her wicked stepfamily to death). Instead of going power-mad, Vasilissa moves to the city to become a weaver. She gets really good at it and impresses the czar's son, who then marries her. Another reason I like the story: it's sometimes called Vasilissa the Beautiful, but her beauty is not a plot point at all. She is brave, intelligent, fair, wise, and hard-working. She makes her own way.

But she doesn't make it alone. She has help from her mother, in the form of a magical doll. And this help, in turn, allows her to make it through Baba Yaga's tests until Baba Yaga deems her worthy of receiving the skull. The prickliness of this relationship fascinates me. Vasilissa somehow sees, in a dangerous and somewhat hostile witch, the promise of an education, and a powerful future for herself.

And apparently this idea has taken root in me more than almost any other. Five novels, five pairs of magicians. I'm including my childhood novel here, because I wrote it when I was barely a person yet, and still, already, this was what I wanted to talk about.

In that first book, which I wrote at fourteen, the two magicians were romantically involved. Totally inappropriately, I might add--she was sixteen and he was twenty-five, and I only made him twenty-five on paper... he was really thirty in my mind. (I think it reflected the fact that my animus, my intellect, was pretty mature for my age but my girl-self was woefully...not.)

The second novel was never finished. The older magician was a monk, and the younger one a sort of feral child-warrior. No romantic relationship (good) but way too much of a parental relationship, which made the whole thing kind of boring to write, for a kid trying to grow up.

By the third book, I'd figured out that the young woman/older man combination was a huge red herring for my potential readers. I didn't want to tell a story about daddy issues. I wanted to tell a story about a mentor relationship. So I made my magicians gay men, and gave them each outside love interests.

Fourth book: the magicians are stepsisters. This is the explicit Vasilissa book, so it was way more important to have the characters be women. I was also starting to figure out that this was a theme--not consciously, not totally, not yet.

Fifth book: the magicians are gay again, and former lovers. The younger one's just figured out that his life is a wreck, and turns to the older one for guidance, only to discover he's part of the problem. I think the mentor relationship is getting more complex now: it's not only about the power that can be learned, but about the damage that can be done by someone who doesn't take his own influence seriously enough.

So now that I've teased out this theme--and I'm truly embarrassed that it took me five books to notice--I've got to wonder: why is this my story?

And did it set me up to find, in my own life, the excellent mentors I've had?

Monday, January 10, 2011

In which I discuss my career to date

This is my second year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (awarded to writers who are in the first two years of their careers, dating from their first professional sale). I am fairly unlikely to be nominated, since my career to date has been somewhat sparse. I can, however, hope that eligibility in itself will drive a few more people to read the work of mine that is available online, and maybe remember my name next time they see it (likely in Strange Horizons in spring).

I can also goggle at some of the other people who are eligible this year. Rachel Manija Brown, who wrote the wonderful memoir All the Fishes Come Home to Roost. Nicole Kornher-Stace, whose story "The Raccoon's Daughter" came out a week before mine in Fantasy Magazine and completely overshadowed it, in the best possible way. Amal El-Mohtar, who gave a very lovely and memorable poetry reading while standing on someone's hotel-room bed at Readercon.

Also, my fellow Viable Paradise students. From my year, Tiffani Angus and Christian Klaver. From other years, George Galuschak, Ferrett Steinmetz, and possibly other people I haven't happened across yet. Obviously the workshop has been a great jumping-off point for many of our careers.

Looking at my work as a professional activity is not new to me, but looking at myself as part of a group of professionals is very new. Looking at my work as part of a public body of professional writing is also very new. Sometimes it surprises me when I get a reminder that people are actually reading me.

Case in point: I was reading Rich Horton's annual summaries to see how Ideomancer fared (well, in fact: he liked one of my favourites, Ilan Lerman's "Saint Stephen Street"). I then discovered that he also mentioned me (the story I had there was "Who in Mortal Chains").

There you have it: proof positive that I exist! I am not just whispering into a soup can attached to a long string stretching away down a very dark alley!

If you are reading this, or any other word from my hand, know that I love you.