Told My Troubles To The River

It was a hard day.

My first official and intentional 10 hour day.

My cold is on the way out.

A short story was rejected.

I woke up to the news my grandmother was sent to the ER with chest pains.

It was a hard day.

It could’ve been worse. I learned better today that emotional toll can zap you faster than anything physical. That waiting and not knowing is utterly draining no matter how much you have to keep you occupied.

It was a hard day, but my mother had it worse, and I’m glad she was there to keep us posted, to keep my grandmother company through all the infernal and seemingly infinite waiting.

My grandmother, last I heard, is fine. No diagnosis and from what I understand, her CAT scan and MRI came back clean. Next up will be the results of the Lexiscan, and maybe, just maybe we’ll learn why my grandmother had such a bad weekend that they called an ambulance to take her to the ER.

So it’s time to rest up, start over again tomorrow, and pay a visit after work.

And hope and pray that today’s hard day doesn’t turn into a harder week. Or a harder month. Or a harder year.


Today’s blog post title comes from “Told My Troubles to the River” from Tom McRae’s The Alphabet of Hurricanes. What a fantastic album title. You can hear the song “Told My Troubles to the River” here.


Edit: And then I heard this: Melanie Tem passed away. Damn it. I feel like I need a good cry now. Steve and Melanie were our Writers in Residence during Week 5 of Odyssey 2005. A lovely couple, wonderful writers, and Melanie was just amazing. I am so terribly sorry to hear this.

Writing Wednesday: Getting Back in the Saddle

I had such high hopes for this year, but you know what they say about best laid plans and all of that. For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while, or if you know me really well, you know 2014 has been a tough year for me personally. Things are looking up, and I may get into that at a later time, but for now, I want to focus on something tangible. Like creating another alliterative weekly post. 🙂

So the idea behind “Writing Wednesdays” is to basically give a progress report for what I accomplished writing-wise during the week. Not too formal, not too structured, but something to keep me accountable and give you all a chance to hear about what I’m working on.

Right now, I’m free-writing. I started on 6/30 with a toying in a secondary fantasy setting, but while I’ve been chewing on the setting for a while, I’m not sure where I really want to go with that world, so short of writing a page-and-a-half scene, I’ve got nothing. So on 7/3 and 7/7, I started free-writing in an urban fantasy setting I’ve been brainstorming for a while. I like the opening, but the second scene I’m feeling my way through, and I’m having to consider what I’m really driving at in the story and what I want the payoff to be. But it’ll be fun to think about. I’ve been thinking about the magic system for a while, so it’s going to be fun to play around with.

I also decided to take my short story that got rejected from F&SF and start putting it back out in the market. I’m too superstitious to say the name of the story or where I sent it, but should it get accepted or rejected, I’ll reveal the market and likely ask for suggestions for other markets, should the response be a big fat no. This is submission #18 for the story.

And that’s all I wrote!

Short Fiction: Letting Go

And there’s one other trait I hit on lately:  Abandonment.  Knowing when to let go.  Being able to move on to the next thing when one thing isn’t working.

What this means if you’re an aspiring writer, if you want to be a professional writer:  Don’t pin all your hopes on one thing. As soon as you finish writing that first story, that first novel — start the next. Immediately.

—Carrie Vaughn, “On Being Prolific”

Earlier this year, I opened up the file that contained all of the short stories I wrote during my stint at Odyssey back in 2005. The reason for this was simple: Lightspeed Magazine was accepting submissions for their Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue, and I wanted to see which of those stories I’d worked on would be most appropriate to dust off, polish up, and submit.

But after reading each of those stories, and all of the short stories I wrote since then for various purposes, I found myself largely dissatisfied. It wasn’t that the stories were totally bad: they still needed revision, but my problem was that I’d moved on. I wasn’t the same person who wrote those short stories, and the revisions that need to be made should’ve been made back then, not now. Not by the current me, who is so far removed emotionally that while I recognize there’s good stuff in those stories, and I definitely learned something from those stories, they aren’t the stories I want to tell now. I definitely don’t want to get sucked in the mire of working on such old material when I really need to be stretching my brain and working on something new.

It was a frustrating lesson to learn on a lot of levels. Frustrating, but necessary.

So from here on out, this will be my modus operandi for short fiction:

1) Write.
2) Get it critiqued.
3) Revise.
4) Get final feedback.
5) Polish.
6) Send it out.

No breaks in between. No letting something “sit” for a while. With short fiction, it is what it is. I’ve now got ten years experience on the girl who was at Odyssey. I’m not the same girl who was learning how to hone her craft and slowly gaining confidence writing SF/F, which was still such a very new genre to me back then. I know why I let those stories sit:

I wasn’t confident.

I wanted to make sure things were perfect.

I feared rejection.

I felt like a story wasn’t ready to go out unless all readers I sent it to for feedback gave me a thumbs up.

I felt like a story wasn’t worth publishing unless a big market accepted it.

I now know that way lies madness. And likely dragons. And right now, I’ve got enough dragons to battle in my own head, thanks. No need to add more.

So if you’re an aspiring writer, and you’re revising and revising and revising, or maybe you wrote something and you’re letting it sit for a while (which, in some cases, isn’t wholly a bad thing, but that’s a post for another day), you need to learn when to submit, and when to let it go. Carrie Vaughn’s above-referenced post has some excellent advice. Right now, I’m applying that advice to my short fiction: letting the old stuff go and learning from the past.

As for my novels? Well, that’s a different story and a different post. 🙂

Fiction Friday: Doing My Homework

There will be no Fiction Friday today, no matter what the title of this posts says. Reason for this is the 4th of July holiday, and while I know that’s strictly an American holiday and nobody else gives a fudge, I know today isn’t exactly a highly-trafficked internet day, so why promote a story that’s likely to get overlooked while people (including yours truly) are gorging at the grill?

But in addition to wishing a Happy 4th to all who celebrate it, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the July/August 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I haven’t read this magazine in years, and the only reason I picked it up yesterday was because it was the issue guest-edited by C.C. Finlay. And you may still be wondering, “Okay, and….?”

It’s the issue I was rejected from. *insert sad face* You might think it I’m torturing myself by wanting to read all the stories that beat me, and you may be right. However, Finlay will be guest-editing at least two more issues of the magazine. The announcement, reading dates, and deadlines are listed here.

I’ve always wanted to get published in this magazine, and rightly or wrongly, I feel I have a better shot with Finlay at the helm than the usual suspects. Of course, I might read this latest issue of F&SF and realize that’s an insane thought, but hey: that’s why you do your homework.

I want to read this issue 1) to discover new voices and read great stories, 2) to figure out what Finlay thinks are great stories and 3) see if I get inspired. Doing my homework doesn’t mean I’m going to intentionally write a story with the editor’s tastes in mind, but it does mean that I’ll know if any of my ideas are even remotely in the ballpark of what he might publish. In other words, I wouldn’t send an fantasy story to Analog, you know?

So here’s to the July/August 2014 issue of F&SF. I hope it doesn’t suck, because if it does, I’ll be bitter. 🙂 But I really don’t think it’ll suck. I’ve read some of the authors who are listed in the Table of Contents, and I’ve been quite pleased with work in the past.

Cover by Maurizio Manzieri For "Palm Strike's Last Case"
Cover by Maurizio Manzieri For “Palm Strike’s Last Case”

The Write Stuff: 2/23/14

Originally, I was going to post when I accomplished something BIG in terms of my writing. Well, there’s not always going to be something BIG every month, and since I want to at least do monthly writing updates, I need to post whether I’ve got something big or not.

When last we left off, I’d sent off Magic Elves [codename] to my beta reader and was waiting on feedback. I’d also sent off my short story to the C.C. Finlay edited edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I getting ready to work on a short story for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! edition of Lightspeed.

So let’s start there:

1) Got my feedback on Magic Elves and did a brainstorming session with my beta reader about revising. Got some great stuff, and I’m trying to work this into a synopsis/brainstorming guide for revisions. This is something I’m working on for my upcoming workshop, and it’s due March 5th. I started out writing a long, detailed synopsis, and that was just sucking any sort of energy or joy I might’ve had for it, so it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I keep thinking I have enough time, but I don’t: like I said, it’s due March 5th. Between that and taxes, there’s plenty to keep me busy.

2) My short story for F&SF was rejected, and that’s okay. Sure, I was bummed out, but honestly, that’s the best rejection I’ve ever gotten, particularly for that story. It’s a strange piece that straddles the line between fantasy and literary fiction, and I’ve submitted it to both markets. The irony, or funny thing, or whatever, is that both markets always say it isn’t for them and to try the OTHER market. It’s a piece I still love, and I suspect that if I can’t find a home for it, I may end up self-publishing it on my site. That’s a long way off into the future, but it’s something I’m keeping in my back pocket.

Also fascinating was Finlay’s blog post talking about what the submission process was like and what he learned from it. Very interesting: if you’re a writer, you should read this, whether not or you submitted to the Finlay issue of F&SF.

3) I ended up deciding not to submit to Lightspeed magazine. There were lots of reasons: A) the story I ended up deciding on had the serious potential to spiral into a novel, and I knew if I didn’t write it and let it be what it wanted, if I tried to force it into a certain word count, it’d be a crappy story. B) I also didn’t have enough time to get it written, get it out to critiquers, give them enough time to read and respond, and get it back in time to make proper revisions and get it back out. C) The issue was highly competitive. Very few slots were given to previously unpublished stories, and I knew that established authors had a far better chance at those slots than I would, someone who’s not been published, which led me to D) my submission wouldn’t just be considered for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! Issue, but also any issues thereafter. Which meant, really, there was no hurry. I wanted to focus on getting Magic Elves ready to start before I turn to a project that might or might not be a novel. Also, it’ll give me time to E) really get to know Lightspeed as a market. I submitted to the Kickstarter, and for my efforts I’ve got a yearlong subscription to the mag. This will give me plenty of fiction to chew on and figure out whether or not it’s really the right market for my work. And that’s a good thing.

So now that we’ve caught up there, what have I been doing? Well, if you saw yesterday’s post, you know my focus has been shot. I’ve spent part of my time reading Karl Iglesias’ Writing for Emotional Impact. This was homework from my beta reader, so I did that before attempting any work on my synopsis for the revised book. And, as I mentioned before, I’ve made a few stabs, but in truth, I’ve not accomplished much since January 13th. It is what it is: I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’ve got lots to do between now and the end of March, some of it writing-related, some of it not, and the way I figure, I’m just going to go with the flow.

The Write Stuff: 1/13/2014

I figured I could just do a writing update at the end of every month, but where’s the fun in being that predictable? Instead, I think I’ll post when I have something worth saying, such as after I’ve completed SOMETHING, and since the first quarter if this year is going to be full of various projects big and small, I think this is a good way to go about it.

So what’s up in my writing world?

Yesterday, I finished the proofreading/formatting pass of Magic Elves (code name). Here are the stats on that sucker: it took me 309 days in 2012 to write 579 pages, which added up to 132,013 words. That means, on average, I wrote 427.23 words per writing day. Talk about a huge difference between 2012 and 2013, where I averaged 916.77 words per writing day, where it took me 117 days to write 107,262 words on 473 pages in the LB Prequel. That’s a definite improvement, but there are a lot of factors to consider.

1) 2012 marked the first year I got back in the saddle after getting my Master’s in 2008 (and after I finished rewriting Telepathic Soulmates). It wasn’t that I didn’t write AT ALL between 2008 and 2012. I had spurts here and there, but I didn’t finish a thing. So it makes sense that getting back in the saddle took time and effort. I’ll never forget the first day of starting Magic Elves. Staring at the blank screen for what felt like hours, unable to swallow the knot of anxiety in my chest. I’m glad I’ve moved beyond that. That doesn’t mean you won’t catch me staring at a blank screen, or that I don’t get anxiety, but it’s for different reasons, and not the crippling kind.

2) Content: both projects I made up as I went along, but with Magic Elves, it was DEFINITELY a case where I didn’t know what I would do from one day to the next. I had a very basic idea, and then ground out a page per day (roughly). With LB Prequel, I was working in an existing world of my own creation, I knew the characters to a certain extent and was learning more about them, and therefore, I was already invested. It’s funny how, even after re-reading Magic Elves, I still find myself rather distant from the project. I hope that, once I really dig in and focus on what makes the novel cool and interesting, that I’ll be more invested during the rewrite, but there’s something to be said about working on a project that’s your baby (which for me is the world of LB Prequel and Telepathic Soulmates) and an idea that morphs into a project that hasn’t been years and years and years and years in the making.

That being said, both worlds — both projects — have been cannibalized from a fantasy novel I started when I was in college. Magic Elves would be more recognizable to those college readers in that the trappings are very similar. However, the characters of Telepathic Soulmates would be familiar to them too, as well as some of the key cultural THINGS that drive the story, albeit in an SF setting.

At any rate, I’ve sent Magic Elves off to my brainstorming reader. While I’m waiting on her feedback, I’ll be working on a short story for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed Magazine. I’ve got three story candidates in mind, and all of them need some serious revision. That being said, I’m going to browse through the magazine some, get a better feel for what they publish, so that I can determine which of those stories might be the best fit (or determine if I’m barking up the wrong creek and need to churn out something completely new and fresh). Now that I’ve sent off my piece to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I can focus on this next project, which will be good for me. Already, after re-reading the story I sent off to F & SF, I’m starting to see how my writing style is evolving, and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps, sometime in the near-future, I won’t be working on a novel so much as writing some short fiction, just to see what I can do.

But that’s a musing for another day.

At any rate, it seems that January will be the month where I officially finished writing the discovery draft of the LB Prequel, which I sent off to my daily readers and posted a survey for them to respond to, proofread and adjusted the formatting of the discovery draft of Magic Elves and sent it off to my brainstorming reader, and then posted a short story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, of which I’ll get a response hopefully no later than February. No, I’m not telling you the name of the story or what it’s about or even its specific spec-fic genre. I’m kind of superstitious about that, for some reason. But when I get a response, I’ll let you know how it shakes out, okay?

January isn’t over yet, obviously. I have an SF short to get into shape, get feedback on, and get out by February 14th. And by then, I hope to have my feedback, erm, back for Magic Elves, wherein I’ll start working out a synopsis for the rewrite.

I think I can count all of this as a win, no?