Stay

Artemis Rising 3 takes over all five Escape Artists podcasts this month and I’m a part of it!

Artemis-Rising-3-1-683x1024PodCastle, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders and Mothership Zeta have brought back the month-long event for a third year to highlight speculative fiction by women and non-binary authors.

My short story, Stay, will be the featured tale at PodCastle the last week of the month. Stay is one of my personal favorites and I’m so happy it’s found a home. For you Pacific Northwest folks, it’s set in Seattle and features Emma Stone and Caitlin Stihl, a lesbian couple who work as private detectives.

Stihl and Stone Security is used to turning up the more personal details of a case, but this time the investigation digs a little too close to home.

I’ll post a reminder when it’s up.

According to His Substance

My short story, According to His Substance, is now available from Amazon.com as the lead story in Brave Boy World, an anthology from Pink Narcissus Press. The story originally appeared in my story collection, Snapshots From A Black Hole & Other Oddities.

brave-boy-cover-low-res_origAccording to His Substance examines identity and our need for redemption. To what lengths would you go to to be the person you believe you are?  What are the costs of redemption?  Can it be achieved if you have wronged a crowd of people? And if you were given a second chance, would you have sufficient courage to try to make things right?

I’m rather pleased with this story and grateful to Michael Takeda, editor of the anthology, for his faith in my work. Thank you, Michael.

The book looks fantastic; I am so pleased to be a part of it!  And faithful readers – I hope you enjoy the story!

Little Green Guys!

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I opened today’s mail and found contributor copies of Little Green Men – Attack!, a Baen Books anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Robin Wayne Bailey.

My story, Little Green Guys, an homage to one of my favorite story-tellers,  Damon Runyon, shares the TOC with fantastic (and funny) company.

The book goes on sale March 7 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon Books.  Thank you, Bryan and Robin! The whole thing looks great!

And faithful readers – I hope you have fun reading all the stories!

Clarion West – Day 10

Half way through the second week.

Maureen McHugh is the instructor this week and it’s been an interesting time.  As a person, she’s laid back and friendly, very approachable, but as an instructor she intense and analytical.  It’s obvious that she cares (and thinks) a lot about what goes into a story.

One of the things she said this morning, while critiquing a story by one of the other writers, is that when she reads a story, she wants to feel that the author is totally in control of what is going on, that every element of the narrative is there for a purpose, that the author intended it to exist.

Her own writing reflects this intensity.  It’s exhilarating to think about but it’s also sort of scary.  I know I still stumble through a good part of my own stories.  Even so, my first submission, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One, got generally good critiques.  It starts out as a police procedural and along the way turns into a first contact story.  Everyone, including Maureen, seemed to understand and accept the underlying humor, and she opined that I’d succeeded in making the two aliens genuinely alien, even though the nature and presentation of their conversation is essentially human.

The group is coming together nicely.  Critiques have been insightful and honest, without being tactless and insulting.  Everyone is submitting excellent first drafts.  Several of the stories we’ve seen so far are close to being ready for submission to publications.

Apart from writing and critiquing, we’re having a good time together, which is a significant part of the process.  It’s been suggested to us several times by different people that friendships and professional relationships that we develop here will stay with us throughout our careers.

I can see the bonds forming.  We just had our second Wednesday night hour-long “tea party” and tomorrow night, after story submission deadline, most or all of us are going for cocktails with Maureen.  Three of the women got Clarion West tattoos today.  They look so great that others of us — myself including — are planning to head to the tattoo shop tomorrow.  If I don’t chicken out, I’ll post a picture of mine on Sunday.

More later.

Clarion West – Week 1

The past seven days have been a whirlwind.

I’ll begin with a paean to the program administrators, Leslie and Neile (the E on the end is silent, BTW).

What super people these two women are. Both give unstintingly of their time, advice and emotional comfort. They deserve medals for what they bring to Clarion West.

And my hat is off to Michael Bishop, our instructor for week one. Mike is a patient, thoughtful teacher who used Socratic method to bring out the best in each of us. And he’s a funny, friendly man, as well.

In five days, we wrote five stories — all under 1,000 words. I’ve already described the first three in Wednesday’s post — a quest, a science fiction love story and a prose poem using Jim Simmerman’s Twenty Little Poetry Projects.

I liked the results of that one — Time Travel, Considered as Stream of Consciousness, so I did a bit of polishing Friday afternoon and sent it off to Jake Frevald at Flash Fiction Online. We’ll see.

The fourth and fifth assignments were: 4) a first-contact story, using three different points of view, and 5) a story with at least two characters, involving dialog and illustrating a proverb.

I’ve expanded #4, the first-contact story, as my week-two story for Maureen McHugh. It’s titled Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One. It’s a 2,000-word SF murder mystery featuring Seattle PD detectives John Osbourne and D.D. Gayle.

Oz and D.D. have appeared before in one of my stories, an unpublished piece titled Against the Grain. Oz is older, close to retirement, and D.D. is a hard-charging newcomer.  They’re bit players in this one, but I like the dynamic between them and I hope to see more of them in other stories.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One offers the timeless bit of dialog, “So this alien walks into a bar …” It’s presented tongue-in-cheek. Those of you who’ve read some of my stuff are probably saying “What else is new?”

I wrote it in six hours Thursday afternoon and evening. I had such a nice little piece of horror prepared , Kindred Souls; 4,200 words that I’d been compiling a bit each day all week.

But when my muse kicks me in the shins, I have to respond. If I argue too much, she goes away and sulks.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One is set for critique Monday (06/28). It’s definitely first draft; covered in warts and typos, not the sort of thing I’m comfortable showing to other people, but that’s what we’re supposed to be presenting.

In any case, I had to submit it Thursday night by 9:00 p.m., so there wasn’t a lot of time for rewrite. I’ll let you know Wednesday how that goes.

Friday night and all day Saturday were devoted to celebration.

The entire class attended a reading by Connie Willis (Blackout) and Greg Frost (Shadow Bridge) Friday night at the University of Washington Book Store.

The two of them put on quite a show. They read to a packed house from recent work, answered questions and did a sweet bit of partnered comedy schtick that had everybody giggling. Among other things, Connie declared her undying infatuation for actor George Maharis and Greg channeled Yosemite Sam to read from Beowulf.

After that, the traditional end-of-week party was held at a downtown condo (no names or addresses, please) and it was a big success.

The eighteen of us were on display, of course, and had a chance to schmooze
with published SF authors, Clarion West alumni and fans.

I enthused with Greg Frost about a mutual fascination — Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder stories. I discovered that Maureen McHugh and I are both from Ohio and are glad to be from Ohio.

And I spent some time saying goodbye to Kij Johnson (Spar) who is headed east next week to teach novel writing at Jim Gunn’s SF Writers Workshop, to traipse around the country for a bit, and to eventually resettle far away to pursue further education. Good luck and God speed, Kij.

I also chatted with Greg Bear (Mariposa), Nancy Kress (Steal Across the Sky), Jack Skillingstead (Harbinger), Nisi Shawl (Filter House), and a ton of other folks I should remember but am just too tired at the moment to recall all the names.

Thanks to all of you for being so gracious and entertaining.

Saturday, the entire class trekked to the downtown Seattle Courtyard Marriott for the Locus Awards ceremony and luncheon that was part of the Science Fiction Awards weekend.

The day began with two panels — one on author research and the other on mistakes new authors often make. Ursula K. LeGuin sat in on the first. She’s eighty years old, vital and funny, and still active as an author (her essays, Cheek by Jowl, won one of the 2010 Locus awards). She gives me hope.

I also shared lunch (and conversation) with Nisi Shawl and had a chance to chat with Ken Scholes (Canticle) and John A. Pitts (Black Blade Blues), two of my favorite new SF authors.

All in all, a great day and a fantastic week.

Maureen is scheduled to meet with us this afternoon to outline the coming week. More later.

Clarion West — Day 3

0630 Wednesday morning and I just crawled out of bed.  It’s the beginning of our third day at the Clarion West workshop and all is well so far.

This thing is everything that people say it is — exciting, intimidating and so much fun. Michael Bishop is the kick-off instructor and he’s been fantastic.  He uses a Socratic style of teaching, asking directed questions, expecting lots of participation and the class has been responding well.  He started with a three-hour session Sunday night, sending us off at the end with an assignment — write a story — under 1,000 words — that involves a quest and focuses on one character.

It was due in twelve hours.  That was a scramble, for everyone, I think.  Particularly for me.  I’d put in a full day on Saturday on zero sleep — ferrying folks to the Clarion West house — and then I slept a couple hours before going to work at midnight to finish out my week.  I got back to CW house, got my things moved in just before the Sunday afternoon session started.

I finished first draft of a story — a upbeat love story — and was in bed by midnight.  “Piece of cake,” I figured.  Then my muse smacked me awake at 0300 with another idea — a contemporary fantasy that wound up as Into the Fading Light.  I finished it in four hours, just in time to send it off for printing, and stumbled through the rest of the day on three hours sleep.

There was another assignment Monday — for Tuesday’s consideration — a science fiction love story that involves only the emotions of love, not the physicality. Four pages or less, thank you very much.  That became Galatea, for me.  Another assignment for today then, two of them, actually — do either one or both.  800 words of sensory description that brings a setting to life and a speculative fiction story, under 800 words, developed using Jim Simmerman’s Twenty Little Poetry Projects template.

Twenty Little Projects gave me Time Travel, Considered as Stream of Consciousness.  One of the things I’d hoped to bring away from CW was the ability to write less conventional stories.   That’s what this one is, I think — a bit screwball comedy, in fact — and I’m pleased with the result. We’ll see how it’s received today.

I’ve also been working on my week-two story submission — a bit of contemporary fantasy/horror piece with a working title of Kindred Souls.  That’s got to be submitted by 2100 Thursday night and I’m done with first draft.  It runs just under 5,000 words (I’d like to cut 10 or 15 percent of that away as I rewrite) and it’s a cautionary tale about aging.  I like the main character, a self-described one-time tomboy named Dorothea.  We’ll see.

In summary, the first three days have been packed full of work and new ideas.  I like the other folks (several are close to my age, one of my concerns), Michael Bishop is a treat (he critiqued our submission stories for us, way over and above. Thank you so much, Mike. You’re the best.) and the work and company is stimulating.  Oh, and I’m catching up a bit on sleep.  Got six hours last night.  More on Sunday morning.

At Rustycon 27

Next weekend, I’ll be at Rustycon — the science fiction convention held here in Seattle — and as more than one of the crowd.

The Rustycon folks were kind enough to invite me to participate as an attending professional.  And so, I will be appearing in six panel discussions — moderating one of them — and reading some of my work.

I’m looking forward to it.

I have a new acquaintance to thank for the connection; two new acquaintances, actually.  I’ve come to think of them as my Amtrak friends.

I met Fred and Johanna McLain on the train to Portland at the end of November, on the way to Orycon.  They were across the aisle, we struck up a conversation when Fred asked me about a book I was reading, and it turned out that they were on their way to Orycon, too.

Fred’s been active in the Pacific Northwest science convention scene for years and he seems to know everybody.  And he mentioned me to some of them.  And that lead to an invitation to Rustycon.

Thank you, Fred.  New friends are a joy of discovery.

Anyway, I’ve got one panel Friday night, five on Saturday, on everything from world-building to sex scenes in science fiction.  They’re spread throughout the day so I’ll be hopping.  And I will present a thirty-minute reading Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.

If you’re going to be at Rustycon, come introduce yourself; I’d love to say hello and talk writing for a bit.

And stop by to hear me read, if you can.  My voice echoes something awful in an empty room.

A Tithe of Blood

Work progresses on my novel, which has undergone another title change.  It’s now A Tithe of Blood.

I’ve written 19,000 words in the past three weeks.

That’s not quite 1,000 words a day, writing every day.  I’m pleased with that, particularly considering it was over the Christmas holidays.

The exciting thing is that as the story progresses, where it is headed becomes clearer and clearer and the major characters are stepping up and telling me more and more about themselves and how they will interact with each other.

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, for me discovery of the details has always been one of the best parts of writing fiction.  I can keep those details organized in my head for a short story, but I learned in the first two novels that i wrote — Lifting Up Veronica and August Company — that that sort of thing can be overwhelming in a longer work.

So I did an outline before I began this project, made a lot of notes, too, because as an SF novel, I can’t fall back onto the real world to remember all the little things.

You shouldn’t get the wrong idea.  I don’t have a two-inch-thick stack of index cards or a binder thick with pages.  My outline is 386 words, set up in seven paragraphs.  You know; this will happen here and that will happen there. But for me it is a spotlight brightening the darkness ahead.

Who could have thought that building something with a prepared blueprint could be so much fun.

The pace may pick up, it may slow down (I’ve got a lot of retrofitting to do as new ideas occur), but I am convinced I will have a first draft (probably closer to 75,000 words that the 65,000 I first projected) completed by the first of June 2010.

And I hope to be able to take it to the University of Kansas next July to workshop in Kij Johnson’s Novel Workshop that is a part of Jim Gunn’s annual SF Writers Workshop.

The downside of this whole spiel is that I haven’t written a single word on a short story since the first week in December.

I want to finish the novel, but I don’t want to give up on shorts, so I’m going to strike a balance for 2010.  My goal is going to be 5,000 words a week, with three days devoted to A Tithe of Blood and two days spent on short stories.

If I can maintain that pace, by the end of June, when it’s time to head for Kansas, I will have completed the novel AND have 50,000 words written toward short stories.  That’s nine to twelve stories.  We’ll see how it goes.

Home again, home again

Ignore the ransom demands. I’m home from Orycon and what a great time I had. Lots to process, but here’s a few high points:

  • chatting with Michael Ehart, one of my favorite flash fiction writers and author of The Servant of the Manthycore and the upcoming The Tears of Ishtar.
  • watching author and anthology editor Lou Anders and Mary-Robinette Kowal, author of the heart-rending 2009 Hugo nominee Evil Robot Monkey (which is flash fiction BTW), pace the center lane at the Building a Balanced Mythos panel.
  • Saturday dinner with Tom Crosshill and Alex Black, the other two 1st Quarter 2009 Writers of the Future winners.
  • seeing Kevin Shamel again. Kevin was at Orycon selling his new book, Rotten Little Animals from Eraserhead Press. (The Mohawk is cool beans, Kev.)
  • Saturday drinks with author and teacher Mary Rosenblum (who has been enormously supportive of 10Flash. Thanks again, Mary. I can’t say that too often.), Dale Smith and Shawna Reppert, whose flash fiction (respectively) Dead Wife Waiting and A Knight’s Vow will appear in the January 2010 and April 2010 issues of 10Flash. (Wait ’til you read them. Great stuff.)
  • the late Sunday afternoon chat with Camille Alexa, author of Push the Sky, a short fiction collection from Hadley Rille Books, and flash fiction editor for Abyss & Apex magazine.  Smart and funny lady.

I hope to talk more about Orycon later. Right now (it’s a bit after midnight), I’m going to bed. I am usually a night writer but at this moment, I’m exhausted.