Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Tiger Cat

Tech week is proceeding apace. Nearly out of the woods. Speaking of woods, here’s more canned content.

One of the interesting things about moving is that one finds all sorts of things, like, say, a short story from 1978. I was nine years old. Here is an excerpt with the original spelling and punctuation. It’s part of a collection I wrote called Cats and their Adventures.

Tiger Cat

Once upon a time there was a young mother tiger. She had three cubs, named Tiger Cat, Lilybug, and Strips. Tiger, (as everyone called him,) grew and grew. He was the oldest and the strongest. Tiger loved to help his mother. One day his mother told him to watch Lilybug and Strips. While his mother was gone a fox tried to capture Lilybug. He was about to carry Lilybug away when Tiger pounced on him, then sank his teeth into the fox’s neck. They fell to the ground. When hi mother came back she said, “Where did you get that?”

Lilybug said, “Tiger killed it.”

“Tiger, was it around the den?” said his mother.

“Yes.” said Tiger, “it was trying to capture Lilybug.” They ate 1/4 of it.

One day Tiger met a tigeress that he liked. That was when Tiger was three. Her name was Tawny. Tawny and Tiger liked each other. One night Tiger invited Tawny to eat supper with him.

Wow… I was writing about tigers dating. Does that count as a romance?

Banking time for writing

I’d talked about needing to simplify my life. The biggest optional time sink for me is the internet. There are a lot of things that I legitimately need to do online, so banning it doesn’t make sense. I’ve decided to try a very simple rule set.

1. I’m allowed one hour of internet time per day.
2. If I want more I have to “buy” it by doing an equal amount of time writing or editing first.
3. Time researching a story, if not knowing will stop me from writing, counts as neutral.

How’s it working? I finished a story today, which has been on my plate for the last month. I’ve got a story that I needed to revise open right now. I’ve already hit the sites that I normally read and still have twenty-five minutes of time allowed online. I’ll bank it rather than just aimlessly surfing.

Fire in space

For a story I’m writing, I needed to know what kind of fire extinguisher would be on a space ship. Which lead to this NASA article about fires in space.

It’s chock-full of interesting things, such as:

In microgravity, there is no buoyancy, so instead of a tall yellow flame on a candle, for example, you’ll see a smaller, blue flame centered on the wick.

Repetative Dialogue

((Spotted at Genevieve Valentine’s))

You know you’ve read scenes exactly like this which were written in earnest. Cut the repetition and don’t say the obvious.

Unless you are Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry, in which case you are fintastically fintastic.

May I recommend a story?

They just posted the works whose eligibility for next year’s Nebulas expires at the end of January. I noticed that Cat Rambo’s story, “Foam on Water” published in Strange Horizons, has seven recommendations. I loved this and recommended it a while ago.

The story only lacks three recommendations to be on next year’s preliminary ballot.

May I recommend, especially if you are a SFWA member, that you read it?

This takes the Little Mermaid and makes it look like Hans Christian Andersen was writing stories made of cotton candy.

Blurbs and context

When we get reviewed in the theater, there’s always a moment of scanning the review looking for the pull quote. We’ve got to have something we can plaster on brochure’s and flyers. It is always tempting to pull something out of context like pulling, “Amazing!” out of “It’s amazing that anyone came back after intermission.” (Completely fictional example.)

In the writing arena, I quote reviews and mentions here, and yeah, usually focus on the juicy stuff. For instance,

Gardner Dozois talked about his picks for the Nebula short story categories, saying:

My vote would go to Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” … My next choice, I guess, would be “For Solo Cello, op. 12,” by Mary Robinette Kowal … followed by “Titanium Mike Saves the Day,” by David D. Levine…

Woot! Gardner Dozois puts me in the number two position! Except… if you read the whole quote.

This is the weakest of the categories.

My vote would go to Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” although it’s not even really a fantasy let alone SF–what it is is an Andy Duncan story, who’s a genre to himself, much like Howard Waldrop. Since Duncan is popular with the membership, it might have a chance, although it did appear in an expensive hardcover anthology from a small press.

Not much else here I’m really enthusiastic about. My next choice, I guess, would be “For Solo Cello, op. 12,” by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is SF (but which is probably unlikely to win), followed by …

Ow. Gardner Dozois says, “Not really enthusiastic!” and “Unlikely to win!”

Ah, context… Think I can put that on a poster?

Putting my husband in my stories

Rob is in the other room writing a synopsis of Shades of Milk and Honey. I hate writing them but gotta have one and he is excellent.

He just called out, “Hey! There’s light careening in your novel.”

I wandered in to kiss him on top of his head. “That’s there for you.”

See, when we were first dating, Rob turned to me once and in a fit of amorous passion said, “I love the way light careens across your face.”

I laughed.

He attempted to fix it by saying, “Well, your face is very architectural.”

Oh, my poor, sweet boy. So well intentioned… But I knew what he really meant was that he thought I was beautiful, and that’s all a girl really needs to know sometimes. In everything I write, there’s a moment where I reference Rob. Sometimes it is the way a character looks at the man she loves, sometimes it is a character’s actions.

And sometimes light careens.

Official Preliminary Nebula Ballot

Here it is folks, the official preliminary Nebula Ballot. Next step. The members of SFWA will pick their top five favorites in each category.

Short Stories — 7
Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse – Duncan, Andy (Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction And Fantasy, Jonathan Strahan, Ed., Night Shade Books, Oct07)
Titanium Mike Saves the Day – Levine, David D. (F&SF, Apr07)
Captive Girl – Pelland, Jennifer (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue — #2))
Always – Fowler, Karen Joy (Asimov’s, May07 (apr/may07 issue))
For Solo Cello, op. 12 – Kowal, Mary Robinette (Cosmos, Mar07 (Feb/Mar07))
The Padre, the Rabbi, and the Devil His Own Self – Fletcher, Melanie (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue — #2))
The Story of Love – Nazarian, Vera (Salt of the Air, Prime Books, Sep06)

Continue reading ›

But, I don’t write [blank].

I think I’ve just had an epiphany about the writers who are clearly writing SF but say, “I don’t write SF.”

Allow me to explain. My last couple of sales have been stories which can be called horror to varying degrees. Now if you ask me what I’ve written, I’ll tell you that I write SF and Fantasy. The word “horror” will not cross my lips, not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t think about it because that’s really not what I’m focused on writing. I was having this conversation and someone said, “You should join HWA.”

I laughed and said, “I’m not a horror writer…”

Except, I sort of am, at least as much as I’m an SF or a fantasy writer. But the difference for me is that I don’t read horror. It scares me. No joke. I like stories that make me all weepy, but not the ones that make me afraid to turn off the lights.

So, the horror stories that I write are ones that deal with stuff I want to read which tend to be, um, love stories. Yeah, I know… there’s a little incongruity there. That said, these are stories in which I do really, really bad things to people and, with the stories for Apex, am deliberately trying to write visceral horror. But when I’m doing it, I’m also trying to make sure that every bad thing that happens to my character reflects on her and on her relationships. At the end, I want you to know more about the character than you did at the beginning, because that’s the kind of story I like reading.

I know that I am writing horror, but I don’t think of myself as a horror writer.

Which makes me think that the people who say, “But I don’t write sci-fi,” really mean, “but I don’t read sci-fi.” Whatever SF tropes and tools show up in their stories, that’s part of the toolbox that they are using to tell the kinds of stories they are interested in. So, yeah, I’ll bite. They aren’t writing SF. When they read their own stories, they aren’t reading SF either.

But that doesn’t mean you or I aren’t reading SF when we read the same story.

Nebulas: Almost a meme

All the good SFWA boys and girls seem to have dutifully posted about the pending close of the Nebula preliminary ballot on December 31. On the off-chance that you are a SFWA active member and haven’t recommended any fiction yet, I would like to recommend a simple strategy.

My opinion on the Nebulas is that one of the primary benefits comes from the ballot itself. Simply put, any story that makes it on the ballot will automatically get a much wider readership as people review stories for voting. So, when I’m recommending stories, I’m choosing stories that I think people ought to read, whether or not I think the story is ultimately likely to win the award.

Getting on the ballot is a boost to writer because it does raise their profile, and thus, people are more likely to notice their other work later. It might not be a conscious thing, but you see someone on the Nebula ballot and next time, by golly, you’ll see their name and think, “I’ve heard of her.”

So here are writers who I want to support and think that you should read their stories.

Andrea Kail: The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom (Writers of the Future Volume 23) This is a brilliantly done epistolary tale told in a series of letters from Tutankahmen to Abraham Lincoln. Trust me, it makes perfect, chilling sense when you read it. Beautifully and heart-breakingly done.
It also has eight recommendations and its eligibility ends in March. Go! Recommend it! Do you really want to see it not make the ballot because you didn’t take the twenty minutes it will take to read this gorgeous story? I didn’t think so.

Ted Kosmatka: The Prophet of Flores (Asimov’s, Sep07) Holy cow! This is a freaky blend of SF and alternate history. The deep-story to this one? Intelligent design is real. The earth is only 5800 years old and carbon-dating proves it. And then someone finds a fossil that turns everything upside down. Seven recommendations thus far, but this one has eligibility until September, so I’m not quite as frantic about it making the ballot. But, you’ll be missing out if you don’t read it.

Livia Llewellyn: The Four Hundred Thousand I don’t know how to describe this one without giving away the creepy turns this chilling SF story takes. To grossly over-simplify it, this is about the right to choose. But, look, there’s a link so you can go read it. And do.

Jennifer Pelland: Mercytanks The person who pointed this one out to me said that it was the first time they’d really seen far-future done well. And how.

Short Stories:
Richard Bowes has two I liked: A Tale for the Short Days (Coyote Road, Trickster Tale) and King of the Big Night Hours(Subterranean, Sep07). The thing that he does, particularly with the King of the Big Night Hours, is tell a story that seems so absolutely, totally grounded in reality that it makes you wonder why you haven’t noticed any magic happening in your life. I mean, these seem like they are things that actually happened.

Vylar Kaftan: Kill Me Extremely evocative SF. The story is deceptively simple. A professional masochist has a device which records her thoughts so that she can be killed and brought back. But there’s a price; there’s always a price.

Andrea Kail: Soft Like a Rabbit I read this the first time as I was typesetting Fantasy. It stopped me cold. I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and just read the story. When I finished I couldn’t understand why I’d never read anything of Andrea Kail’s before. She’s a power-house and tells economical and wrenching stories. Have tissues standing by when you read this.

Nancy Kress: End Game I listened to this one at Escape Pod. Again, SF. Have you ever wished you could just concentrate on one thing at a time? Listen to this and rethink your wish.

David D. Levine: Titanium Mike Saves the Day This is probably the first light-hearted one I’ve mentioned. People always need tall tales; why should outerspace be any different? A fine example of yarn-spinning.

Lisa Mantchev: Six Scents Six tales in one. I could sum this up as tales of famous fictional women and their favorite perfumes, but really, it would not do justice to the brutally clever writing here. For example: “Men find it hard to fall in love with a dead girl. They tell her it’s a turn-off that they take her hand at the movies and a finger lands in the popcorn.”

Joy Marchard: Pallas at Noon lives in the uncanny place between things that could actually happen and the magic that lies just on the other side of that. I don’t even know how to describe this story, but definitely find a copy of Interfictions and read this. It will make you weep and feel hope and despair all at the same time.

Holly Phillips: The Oracle Spoke is quite possibly my favorite story this year. It’s the one that I desperately wish I had written. Please read it.

Cat Rambo: Foam on the Water You think Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid has a chilling ending? Ha! He could have taken lessons from Cat Rambo’s story.

I’m not doing mini-reviews of the novels, because I know you won’t have time to read any between now and then. But here are some that I think you should read after the first of the year.

Chris Barzak, One for Sorrow; Tobias Buckell, Ragamuffin; Jay Lake, Mainspring; Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow.

And finally, I will finish with a totally shameless self-pimp.

Look! For Solo Cello, op. 12 has six whole Nebula recommendations. This is makes me squee with girlish pleasure.

All right folks, there’s still reading to do. Go forth recommend stories! (And I hereby open this up for shameless promotion. Got a story you want read? Link away!)

Shimmer announces the Clockwork Jungle Book

Looking for a writing challenge? Look no further.

Shimmer is pleased to announce The Clockwork Jungle Book. Think steampunk animal parables! It’s a special double-length issue, guest-edited by George Mann of Solaris Books, scheduled for Autumn 2008. Now accepting submissions. Read the guidelines for more details.

About volunteering for SFWA

Those of you who aren’t interested in the politics of Science-Fiction and Fantasy can skip this post. For the rest of you, I have some explaining to do.

I’ve volunteered to help SFWA by chairing the Service to SFWA committee, which has been revamped to recruit, retain and reward volunteers. Any service organization, like SFWA, relies on its members to be active participants in supporting its goals. More specifically, it relies on its active members to set those goals.

I have not been happy with a number of things about SFWA lately, however, when I look at the organization as a whole it has accomplished some very good things. Griefcom, the Legal Defense Fund, the Emergency Medical Fund, raising the pro-rate standard from 3 -5 cents… These are good things that volunteers accomplished. At its core, SFWA exists to promote and aid Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers.

That’s me. I am a science-fiction and fantasy writer.

So my choice is to walk away from the good things or to try and change the things that I don’t like. I want an organization that represents me and that represents my interests. From working with other non-profits, I’ve found that quickest way to be taken seriously is to volunteer. So that’s why I’m doing this.

And that’s why, if you aren’t happy, I think you should consider volunteering. Shift the balance. Help me.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your fellow Science-Fiction and Fantasy authors, please fill out the following questionnaire and email it to or leave it in the comments here.

1. I am interested in volunteering for SFWA — [short-term/long-term] (ie.a quick one-time job, versus an ongoing position)

2. I can offer [x] hours per month for volunteer work.

3. I am interested in learning more about volunteering to help with
a) Website
b) Writing related advice
c) Legal advice or issues (ie contracts, copyright, etc.)
d) Outreach (ie, Youth, Speaker’s bureau, Conventions, etc.)
e) Publicity (ie publications, Nebulas, PR, etc.)
f) Operations (ie audits, procedures, run for office, etc.)
g) Grunt Work (ie stuffing envelopes, sorting lists, lifting tables, etc.)
h) Other (ie I got mad skillz you don’t even know to ask about, teleportation, graphic design, an active fan base, FTL travel, etc.)

4. My SFWA membership status is: [non-member, affiliate, associate, active]

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to working with you.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Edited to add: You don’t need to be a member to volunteer for anything except those things that involve voting, such as running for office or chairing a committee. All you need is an interest in support science-fiction and fantasy writers, or concern with helping to shape the future of the organization.

Random gig day

Today was one of those random days. I did a little graphic design, a little shopping, a meeting for a set design project and then some writing. I managed to crank out about 1000 words on a new story on the subway and train.

Here’s a teaser.

Lifting the stopper from the vial to his nose, Penn inhaled slowly. Against the neutral backdrop of his ship’s clean room, he picked out aromas of quince, elderberry, bright Martian soil that hinted of blood, with undercurrents of cinnamon and Zeta Epsilon’s fragrantly sweet longgrass. He sighed, blowing the scents out again. The perfume was still just a little out of balance.

The door chime rang, letting him know that Dell had returned. The round tones resonated off the glass labware and sent vibrations across his scalp as it slowly, slowly faded. God, it was gorgeous — picking up the temple bell when they were on Izlacs had been one of his better choices. He’d eventually get the whole ship converted to real things instead of all the virtual hoo-ha it had come with.

Edited to add: I made the changes that Brian suggested in his comment below, though I normally wait until I’m finished writing to edit a story, but once he pointed them out they itched and I had to fix.

Now, one of the things was the character’s names, which I agree with. Does anyone want to be tuckerized into this?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rob and I, despite invitations to spend the day with friends, are staying at home today. What am I thankful for? That the nation comes to a halt today, which gives me time and license to spend the day with my husband.

I also sent off an email to a man I’ve been meaning to thank for a while now. My college writing teacher, William Hallberg, had just had his first novel come out the semester I took a class with him. Much like my experience with puppetry, until meeting him it hadn’t occurred to me that publishing a novel was something that was attainable. Now, I haven’t spent the ensuing twenty years in desperate pursuit of getting a novel published — in fact I only really started writing seriously about five years ago — but the early lessons from Mr. Hallberg stuck with me. Among other things, that it is possible to write a novel and hold down another job.

So, besides spending time with Rob, I’m going to treat myself to a writing day today. Meanwhile, may I recommend that you pick up a copy of Rub of the Green, by William Hallberg?

Edited to add: Mr. Hallberg wrote back to say that he remembers me. Wonders never cease. He asked me to send him something I’d written, so I’ve sent him a link to For Solo Cello, op. 12.