31 December 2009

"Too Many Voices"

I like song lyrics. Sometimes, they get me thinking and then I like to dissect them like the Zapruder film. Just something I'm going to try in 2010 to give me something to talk about here. Should've thought of this years ago :). Call this a field test.

Many reasons that hold you back
That tell you no
Make you fall short of what you want to say
Too many voices in my head
Where's the boy who used to take chances
Used to say when I grow up to be a man someday
True to my heart in every way
Seems so simple
Why's it so hard
I'll never know

This isn't going to be a story of how I suddenly found myself or an epiphany about my purpose on earth which I'm dedicating myself to living out in 2010. It's not a manifesto or a mission statement. This is about struggle--I guess you could say The Struggle. And I mean that in a positive way.

Inspiration is all well and good. I certainly couldn't get by without it. And for the longest time, this song did inspire me. But it didn't really do anything for me until I pondered what Robert Lamm was talking about when he asked, Why is it so hard?

I dunno. Lamm asked that question for his own reasons. Me, all I need to know is that it is hard, and that's just the way it is. I look back at every success I've had in 2009, in the two main areas of my life--Writing and Everything else--and I've come to accept that inspiration and luck only ever got me so far.

The rest of it really was work. Nose-to-the-grindstone, ass-in-the-chair, bite-the-bullet fucking work!

I'm jealous of the folks who find joy in the process of writing, I really do. I read their thoughts on their blogs and I'm very happy for them. But their words never resonated with me. No, I'm definitely one of those writers who finds joy in having written. When a piece is done and submitted, I'm happy. (I say this knowing I have no control over whether it's published--if it is, it's gravy.) But I'll be damned if it's not like pulling teeth.

I've noticed that the writers I like the most, the ones whose stuff I like to read, make no bones about how hard the writing life is. They don't complain how The Evil Publishing Illuminati are keeping them from getting their work out. They don't blog excessively about the source of their writer's block--they bitch for two seconds, pull up their big boy/big girl pants and attack the writing life like Chow Yun-Fat in a John Woo Hong Kong action film. They just get to it!

The only way to success, I've found, really is through the struggle--The Struggle--and to be sure, that's hard to face. I have to re-teach myself that lesson over and over, and I don't expect it to be different in 2010. I can only resolve to make the lesson stick for longer and longer periods of time.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate, namely a life of sitting around pondering Lamm's song lyric up there and never coming to a satisfactory answer.

So, what Struggle are you going to walk into, with glocks in both hands, in order to get to where you want to be in 2010?

30 December 2009

First Time for Everything

Call it a dry run for 2010, a new year for which I have a whole list of new things to try.

I entered Calista Taylor's Steampunk Romance Contest. I'd never even thought about writing a steampunk story before. And the only romance story I ever wrote was one I wrote without even knowing it. But Cali threw down the gauntlet and I picked it up.

My story along with six others have been posted as blind entries. Thus, I can't tell you which one's mine until the contest is over. The one with the most votes wins and Calista's taking them until January 18th at 8 am EST.

18 December 2009

Too Slow to Use "Shield."

Everybody, thank Calista (I can hear the Bundy family going, "Thanks, Calista.") for tagging me on her blog. I thank her, because I've been scrambling to figure out what my next topic is going to be.

1)What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote would be part of the current manuscript I'm working on. As for the first thing, it was a murder mystery/romance that I never completed. Maybe someday.

EDIT: Why didn't anyone tell me I copied/pasted Calista's answer verbatim?

Last thing I wrote was my attempted comeback into a certain lit humor magazine of an Irish persuasion. Submitted today. First thing I wrote that I still have is my first attempt at a "literary non-fiction" thing. I forgot WTH it was even about, and that's probably for the best.

2) Write poetry?
Yes, but it's not fit for human consumption.

3) Angsty poetry?
No more so than my fiction :).

4) Favorite genre of writing?
Slipstream. (Whatever that means) :)

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?
A minor character in my very first published piece of fiction. An obsequious toad who, if memory serves, got his in the end.

6) Best plot you've ever created?
That first story was probably my best plotted.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?
That would be the end to this story.

8) How often do you get writer's block?
Generally, I agree with comics writer Brian K. Vaughn, who wrote, "'Writer's block' is just another word for video games. If you want to be a writer, get writing, you lazy bastards." Except in one circumstance.

In almost every instance where I just cannot, for the life of me, get words out, it's usually because there some unattended piece of business has latched on to what David Allen calls my "Psychic RAM." If I can somehow process that thing, then any further "writer's block" on my part is simply time-wasting.

9) Write fan fiction?
First and only piece when I was 12.

10) Do you type or write by hand?
Whatever gets the words out fast enough at any given moment. I have my netbook and/or legal pad and/or index cards around me at all times. All times. Weddings, funerals, whatever. All times.

11) Do you save everything you write?

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
As long as I can hone in on whatever resonated with that idea in the first place.

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
My one, and so far only, piece that was ever accepted by McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?
I still get more juice out of that McSweeney's piece than anything else, and that was almost five years ago, now.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
I didn't think I did, until an editor decided that one of my stories was "Fantasy/Romance." Hey, ain't nu'in wrong with that, I say :).

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Down the block, a few years ago, or twenty minutes into the future.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?
I've taken on some fun small side-projects this month, sort of as a break from the shell game of submitting/resubmitting my backlog of stories.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?
I placed in a flash fiction competition, but didn't win.

19) What are your five favorite words?
"We would like to publish..."

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Probably the guy from "Tough Love," except he's slightly more of a tool than I am.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
Usually, a person in my mind, a total stranger, does something stupid and then wants to tell me about it. I write it down for my amusement.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Not directly, though as I think about my dreams and put them into words in my head, occassionally I'll come up with a phrase and say, "Ooh, I'm gonna use that."

23) Do you favor happy endings?
My stories are like life... sometimes you get the happy ending, sometimes you don't. And whatever happens, happens ;).

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Hukt on foniks werkt fer me!

25) Does music help you write?
Yes. And don't ask me to describe which kinds help me when--that's a whole separate blog.

26) Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head.
"Maybe if I stay really, really still, the clowns won't find me when they come out of the mirror."

I'm not usually a tagger, but that doesn't mean you can't play along in the comments or linkback to your own blog!

14 December 2009

Soul Power

All white soul singers insist they grew up listening to Sam Cooke.
-Diablo Cody
Depending on who you ask, my favorite male vocalist is one of the unsung legends of blue-eyed soul, Bill Champlin. If you doubt his soul credentials, you should know that he's not really doing covers of the tunes "Turn Your Love Around" and "After the Love Is Gone" in the following videos. He co-wrote them and won Grammys for his trouble...

There's no getting around it--this genre's all about White boys singing in a style that wasn't originally meant for them. Now, I don't want to get into a long musicology lesson about cultural appropriation, blah blah yadda yadda. But Champlin, Bobby Caldwell, Hall & Oates (Screw you, I like Hall & Oates. If you can't hear the brilliance in their Abandoned Luncheonette album, I feel sorry for you!)--they've got respect.

And that gives me hope.

From the info I've gleaned about them after listening to their music over the years, these guys just played and sang what they wanted to play. And for as much praise as they've received, they've taken some crap too. It kind of resembles the crap my subconscious feeds me about my writing. "You ain't got no business." Or, "You're not writing what the market demands." Or, "Yeah, quit trying to be a wannabe [insert one of my 20 favorite writers here]."

Again, it comes down to perseverance. Perseverance doesn't always silence those voices. But it gives you something to do as you strive to shut those voices the hell up. Now, that's some soul power right there.

12 December 2009

Performance Anxiety

I admit it, I don't read enough blogs and I the ones I do read, I don't read closely enough. I don't read them at all if they don't have an RSS feed that I can plug into Google Reader--even then, I skim and speed read. Most of the time, the entries I do read are ones that get my attention through the people I follow on Twitter.

Hell, I tweet so much, how often do I even write in this one? I'm making an effort, though. For awhile, I let this blog degenerate into a tweet archive. I've been making an effort, though. I put an end to the LoudTweeting. But I did fail at a couple of points along the way. I didn't start my 2009 Rod Serling Conference posts and I'm still catching up on my thoughts on last month's Astronomicon 11.

So, what reawakened the blogging desire? The feeling of "Oh shit, people are actually coming here to read this!" thanks in no small part to some of my favorite tweeps who've started following this thing and have actually plugged it on their blogs.

Follow--and actually read--these folks. They're writers at every stage, writing every sort of thing, listed roughly in the order I met them (if my faulty memory serves)...
I know that I've missed a good number of people! Some, but not all, of these folks are Followers on that there sidebar on the right. For more, check out my twitter list of the usual suspects.

If nothing else, reading these folks will keep you occupied while I figure out what the hell else I'm going to talk about, on something resembling a regular basis.

07 December 2009


I have--rather, I had--I dilemma. This post isn't about the dilemma itself, but rather my joy over how I found my solution.

If you've been following my Twitter lately, you'll know that I'm making an effort to resubmit my rather shameful backlog of returned stories in order to keep them in circulation. It's quite the shell game, making sure you're resending stories to Plan B, Plan C, Plan Q markets while making sure it fits their varied guidelines and submissions periods.

Now, I believe in the conventional wisdom--sub to top markets first, then work your way down. I don't always follow it, but I believe in it. Me, I consider all of the following when I decide where to submit a story:
  • Pay Rates--just like the conventional wisdom says.
  • "Street Cred"--I wasn't paid for my one piece on McSweeney's, yet it's been worth its weight in gold, as I found when I mentioned it to other pro writers at a recent conference
  • Story Fit--only 2-3 stories I've ever written might have almost, possibly, if you squint your eyes, be appropriate for Analog)
  • Timing of their submissions period.
I don't like having to make Story Fit and Timing my primary criteria. I get there sometimes when I feel I have to choose between (getting rejected by) a top-paying pro-zine or high "street cred" market that isn't taking subs until next month, or a market that might not pay quite as high in either area but that's taking subs now. That's where I am with one particular piece. I won't go into details. Suffice it to say that I'd been asking myself the question of "How small of a market is too small?"

Then, checking my backlog (another backlog--gee, there isn't a pattern, is there?) of unread Google Reader items, I found that John Scalzi, Cat Valente, and Sarah Monette all have different takes on my quandary, all posted over the last few days.

I rush to point out--none of these positions are wrong! They gave me a lot to consider, and now I've decided that the story in question isn't going to do me any good whatever sitting in my trunk.

06 December 2009

Sci-Fi Poetry

I know I've been slack on my Astronomicon 11 posts, especially since the con was a month ago, now. But since we're done with one holiday and I've pushed a bunch of rejected short stories back out to various markets, here's the next entry, as I promised last time.

I attended the panel on "Sci-Fi Poetry" (Moderated by Gerald Schwartz, with Herb Kauderer and John Roche) having no idea what to expect. My only exposure to genre poetry came in some of the pieces in The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and the occasional piece I might catch in one of the "Big Three" print genre mags or some of the online mags I submit stories to (but only if I'd heard of the author previously).

There wasn't too, too much in the way of discussion. Just readings. The pieces read were very competently written verse, at least in my uneducated "I know what I like when I hear it" point of view, covering a variety of topics. I was surprised --and I say this again in the context of my ignorance of the area of genre poetry--that until the very end of the presentation, I hadn't heard any prose poetry.

Perhaps I had that one preconception about genre poetry. I don't know why, exactly. I think it has something to do with a particular piece by Charles Simic, which starts, "He held the Beast" from Part I of his collection The World Doesn't End (reprinted in The New York Times--second piece from the bottom).

He held the Beast of the Apocalypse by its tail, the stupid kid! Oh beards on fire, our doom appeared sealed. The buildings were tottering; the computer screens were as dark as our grandmother's cupboards. We were too frightened to plead. Another century gone to hell - and for what? Just because some people don't know how to bring their children up!
Simic and others might not say so, but I thought this could've easily fit into the rest of the work read in this session.

As it happens, the one prose poem I did hear--my favorite of all the pieces read--was from John Roche. Here it is, posted with permission.
"Reading Comix"
by John Roche

Those long rainy afternoons spent huddled on bed or chair with pile of DC comic books: The Flash or Superman or Batman or Green Lantern Clear heroes for an altar boy who believed Vietnam was a just war and didn’t talk to bad girls, or any girls other than his cousins, for that matter. Later, with onset of puberty, the Marvel anti-heroes: Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Spider Man. Rare ones from my collector friend: Dr. Strange, Strange Tales, The Silver Surfer. Always the sense of forbiddenness, the frown of parents who didn’t quite approve of comic books, at least anything other than Nancy or Archie. Even Bugs Bunny too subversive. And connection to the darker side, the fat dorky guy with disheveled hair and pattern baldness sitting under impossible ziggarats of books reading a paperback and looking pissed when you disturbed him with your pitiful pile of comix then totaling the sum in his head never using a cash register except to make change. Then the older cousin of your collector friend, the cousin with ID to buy you all cigarettes and maybe the occasional six-pack and he had some cool comics but there was something not quite right about him you couldn’t place it except you didn’t want to be alone in the room with him and his pimply face, anymore than to be alone in the sacristy with Father McSheffield. Then, around age 16, came potsmoking, came the comix: Mr. Natural the Furry Freak Bros. Felix the Cat. Visual equivalents to The Fugs and Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention. Girls with impossible breasts sucking off skinny cartoonist alter egos or upside down against walls, their giant asses primed for virtual penetration by fat bikers and smooth-talking gurus alike. Trucking on trucking on trucking on page after page after page joint after joint after joint masturbation after masturbation after masturbation laugh after laugh after guilty laugh while the hi-fi played The Doors and The Who and the Airplane such were the joys of reading at that age. But still the appeal of virtual worlds, the Bat Cave, the laboratory of Lex Luthor, the Sanctum Sanctorum of Dr. Strange, or his Himalayan lamasary, the Silver Surfer’s lost home of Zenn-la, the place you visited after your friend gave you that tab of windowpane to see through seven dimensions seven generations seven suns and daughters seven rings of Saturn seven hours and counting seven heads are better than one and after that you didn’t read many comics for a good long while because you lived in the world of Dr. Who and didn’t even need a phone booth to dial home to your extraterrestrial parents just had a tough time walking on the x’s never on the o’s lest you fall into the vast void opening up under your feet and that would be almost as bad as getting shipped off to Vietnam like your cousins and not even Sergeant Fury could save you then nor the Sky Pilots neither so you walk carefully on the lattice scaffolding between the sidewalk cracks for years, it seems, until Don Juan the Brujo and David Carradine the Kung Fu master come to teach you the proper way for a warrior to walk, magic string from the belly pulling you forward past unseen terrors, calmly past all the hunched up horrors of the next fifty years, unafraid through the transitive nightfall of diamonds.
Some of the references pre-date me by (precious) few years. Yet I and most everyone in attendance agreed that every bit of the poem resonated. To me, it was an archetypal resonance. If sci-fi/comic-book fandom has anything resembling a "race memory," this piece listed most of them.

16 November 2009

"Help, I'm Steppin' Into the Twilight Zone," Part 2

The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 (The Twilight Zone) The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Rod Serling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The changes made in this adaptation were understandable. The original episode was defintely more a play set in an airplane cockpit. But the new character and his story added little, and I thought his end was a little unfair.

View all my reviews >>

15 November 2009

Odds & Ends

I didn't take notes at some of the Astronomicon panels I attended because the material was pretty straightforward with nothing particularly earthshattering or, the opposite, I was too engrossed in the discussion and/or managed to take part! So, here are two of those, with more to come.

"Is It Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Something Else?"
with Josepha Sherman (moderator), with Sal Monaco, Daniel Rabuzzi, and Steve Carper

I remember it started off with an invitation to the audience to shout out the name of a series (lit, TV, whatever) and the panel would try to categorize it as best they could. The Twilight Zone came up and I remembered being a little disappointed with how easily the panel resolved their hemming and hawing and decided, "Sci-fi. Well, no fantasy... well, it had some fantasy elements, but mostly sci-fi." I let it go, 'cos I didn't want to come off like Prometheus from on-high (read: The 2009 Rod Serling Conference), pontificating to the unwashed.

The most interesting part of the discussion happened when the subject of the hard-to-categorize came up. That's when I got to show off a bit, rattling off all the various lit mag issues devoted to that recently, Tin House 33, Conjunctions 39 and 52, Interfictions--well, I didn't bring up Interfictions. One of the panelists, Rabuzzi (a member of the Interstitial Arts Foundation) did!

"The Internet and Personal Privacy"
with Alan Katerinsky (moderator) with the hosts of the radio show Sound Bytes--Nick Francesco, David Enright, & Steve Rea

The tech specifics were over my head, but we've heard all the principles before. Put anything on the internet, you're putting it in public, and it'll always be there, period. Their examples were pretty graphic. Transcripts of VOIP conversations that one member managed to sniff. One panelist was at his laptop rattling off the names of every laptop in the room currently on the hotel's WiFi--thank god mine was off! "If I can see it, I can probably get into it," he said.

Next time: Sci-fi poetry!

13 November 2009

Writing the LOL

I think I got the deepest perspectives on writing from the Astronomicon 11 panel "You Think That's Funny? (Writing Humor)," moderated by Guest of Honor Mike Resnick, with writers John Stormm and John-Allen Price.

Why/How do these writers use humor in their stories?
  • Stormm uses humor as a way of breaking tension. People sort of are looking for an escape nowadays, especially with everything going on in the world lately, and the fact is, funny things happen to people!
  • Price, who writes sf military, notes that humor "unfreezes you in those moments of terror." He makes note of stories of (military) institutional humor--requisitions bordering on the strange & possibly illegal, officers who'll just decide, "Aw what the hell, do it," (Apparently the addage "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission" is true even in the military.), as well as people just plain messing with each other
  • Resnick said several times, "Nobody in this field ever turned down a story for being too funny." Just about every type of humor works in sf/fantasy, because humor is basically just "The expected, happening in unexpected ways at unexpected times." He wasn't talking about padding, but he said "You can add x-hundred amount of extra words to your story just by making a joke."
Pitfalls and warnings? Resnick reiterated a few times: try to be original and don't go overboard. Stormm says that if you do borrow anything, attribute it.

Stormm had the best piece of advice, I think: Take your readers up to the brink with a joke and let their imagination fill in the rest. That way, it becomes their joke.

Required reading:
Robert Sheckley, William Tenn (his short-stories), & Fred Pohl (his more satirical stuff).

12 November 2009

The Neverending Story, Part π

I'm not a novel-writer--yet. I joke that I'm too ADD to stick with any project that long, which does have the ring of truth. But I couldn't see a goldmine of an Astronomicon panel like "Writing Series and Sequels" and not take notes for future reference, especially when it's moderated by Nancy Kress with Robert J. Sawyer (FlashForward) and GOH Mike Resnick sitting in, not to mention John Stormm, Rick Taubold, and Sal Monaco.

So, when I do finally write a novel and perhaps, as Kress put it, "commit trilogy," I'll keep these points in mind...

It was fun watching Nancy Kress and Mike Resnick fight over who was going to moderate, and by that I mean the way they went round-and-round with, "No, you do it!"

Not everyone on the panel necessarily knew they were going to write any kind of series. In the novel Far-Seer, Robert J. Sawyer killed off the main character in the last chapter. But as demand in the UK rose, he wrote the sequel. Nancy Kress was done with The Beggars Trilogy after the second book, and "fell into" the third one because of her publisher, who would only publish a collection of her stories if the third book was written.

A series has certain special needs, including (but not limited to): Consistency of characters, the need to keep yourself interested as the writer, and the need to deal with the problem of backstory, i.e. avoiding the infodump.

Sawyer had a different view. "I love the infodump!" he declared. The edict against infodump is "Turkey City Lexicon bullshit!" Just don't be lazy, he said.

The different types of series written by the authors on the panel seemed to fall into three types:
  • Types with a story arc
  • Types when characters cycle in and out of the stories
  • Types when the characters are always the same and don't really change
General take-aways/advice...
  • Planning and consistency are key!
  • Each book needs a climax and stories that evolve.
  • It's important to have some kind of end in mind to work toward. cf. George Martin. Things have a natural life--sometimes it's best to know when to let it die a natural death.
  • It can be scary when a franchise actually becomes popular. You could need a different pseudonym to escape a successful series the same way you would a bad one.
  • Publishing is in transition nowadays. As Mike Resnick said, "Everywhere you look there are new ways to make money."
  • There is a certain professional pride in wanting each book you write to stand alone. Nothing wrong with that.
  • Have an idea that's big enough and make sure you have enough story for it.

11 November 2009

Whaddya Mean, No Babel Fish?

The first Astronomicon panel I attended was "Aliens Speaking Alien," which included writers Josepha Sherman, Rick Taubold, Nancy Kress, and Carl Fredericks. I admit, the only reason I went to this panel was that it was the first opportunity I had to hear Kress speak. But I took notes anyway, and here's what I learned:

Carl Fredericks says there are two levels to think about when writing or writing about alien language. The lowest level is "language." A higher level involves semantics, e.g. "motor oil" vs. "baby oil." Might an alien think we make oil from babies? Could we make that mistake of an alien tongue?

Nancy Kress told us that one way to start is by considering the biology of aliens. Do they even make sounds? Do they make sounds within a range audible to the human ear?

Also, instant universal translators [my paraphrasing:] suck.

Recommended reading: "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.

Other approaches to writing alien language: Sherman starts with the premise that for space travel to be possible the way modern aviation is possible, there has to be a sort of intergalactic lingua franca that everyone understands. Kress tries to "sneak it in." Fredericks wrote (or read? Can't remember) a story where a race's vocal language was a secondary language reserved for parental interactions with their children.

Some thoughts on actual mechanics, most (but not all) from Kress...
  • Quotation marks or italics sorta suck [my word] for telepathy or other non-verbal communication. People have used typographical tricks w/great success.
  • Any invented language needs an integrity to it. A consistency. One option: pick 3-4 consonant sounds and a couple of vowels to use most of the time.
  • Fluted effects usually involve K or L sounds. Growls: G, R, or F
  • And even if you think you've made up a name, Google it anyway!
  • One writer used typography to illustrate one twin starting a sentence and the other finishing, every single time.
Idea Free-For-All
  • More required reading: Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination.
  • Go overboard and you won't get published.
  • Language is only partly auditory. That's why we need emoticons in email/text.
  • Using pheromones. Poul Anderson had a smell on every 3rd MS page. Maybe overdoing it?
  • Animals don't speak in phonemes. Most of their stuff is in the spaces between sounds.
  • Some panelists irritated when every single slang/foreign expression gets immediately translated. It's very possible to tell by context.
  • In some stories, humans and aliens never really communicate, but they just get it. (Or, not!)
  • You usually have two choices when writing "English in the future" -- just use English or go ahead and invent slang. There's a high risk of sounding ridiculous with the latter.
  • Alien societies probably have classes and their language would reflect that.

10 November 2009

"Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?"

I intended to neatly organize my panel notes and thoughts from Astronomicon 11. It was a lot of fun and I met some wonderful people--legendary sci-fi writers, aspiring writers, poets, and other artists, some small-press publishers, and of course, other fans. And I wanted to blog it all in order. Then, mindful of my broken promise to blog more about the 2009 Rod Serling Conference, I decided to just post since I know there are folks interested in the following topic.

I had two goals for the con: To meet Nancy Kress (she signed my copy of Beggars in Spain as I squeed about how awesome I thought the novella was) and to attend a panel called "Short Stories: Does Anyone Still Care." Everything else was icing--and very substantial icing, I might add.

The panel consisted of Kim Wehner, a local (to the Rochester area) writing instructor (who writes as K.L. Gore), and Craig DeLancey, professor, playwright, and fiction-writer with publication credits in Analog, among others. Author Daniel A. Rabuzzi, a panelist in other panels, was invited to contribute from the audience. Here's what I picked up...

To start, the question of whether or not anyone still cares about short stories has a simple answer: Yes and no. Using figures from Locus, DeLancey observed that while subscription rates for genre magazines (particularly "The Big Three") are decreasing, the number of published short stories are increasing. (I was a little unclear about how "published" was defined, exactly.)

95% of the audience raised their hands when asked by Wehner, "Who writes short-stories?" When she asked why, the typical answers popped up: To take advantage of brevity for impact, to follow the examples of novelists who can't fit everything into their novels and put them into short-stories, to practice in preparation for novel-writing, etc. I chimed in with the credo I adopted from a line in one of Aimee Bender's stories, "I want to be violated by insight."

It was funny. I could feel that parts of the audience were thinking, "That's cool!" and other parts were thinking, "He's gotta be one of those pretentious MFA bastards."

Wehner's theory--something I've heard elsewhere--is that short-story readers are primarily writers or aspiring writers. She did not say it in the tone that usually accompanies that statement ("Those hoity-toity Raymond Carver wannabes!") nor did the typical "Writers writing stories to impress other writers rather than for readers" argument come up.

But I wondered if that accounted for the fact that short-story collections and anthologies just keep on coming. "Can we say that writers are the ones supporting the short-story industry?" I asked. One audience member attributed the continued propagation of short stories to pros who basically force the issue with their publishers. He repeated a story one of the pros told in another panel (I think it was Nancy Kress, but I could be wrong), that she was willing to write a novel for her publisher that she didn't really want to write in exchange for publishing her short story collection.

I countered that while that may be true of individual collections (I don't believe that, personally), that doesn't really account for anthologies: themed anthologies, "best of" and "year's best" anthologies, etc. "Clearly, there is a maket," DeLancey said.

The panelists asked the audience "Where do you read your short stories?" Answers varied--it seemed that only slightly more people answered "online" than "books."

At that point, I publicly admitted that I didn't subscribe to the Big Three magazines. I buy a magazine or read a particular online mag based on the table of contents. Period.

DeLancey, a playwright, wondered if the art of the short-story was a "mature art form" in the way theater and opera are, and if so, why don't we hold it subject to the same limitations? In other words, no one expects a ballerina to become a millionaire. No one expects a theater to break even, let alone make a significant profit. And things being what they are nowadays, is it fair to tell a short-story writer (or even a novelist, for that matter)--and these are my words, not the panelists'--that, "You're probably not going to be Stephanie Meyer, so get over yourself."

Rabuzzi took the comparison a step further, mentioning the theater scene in New York City, where you have Broadway--the rock stars, the big hits--and Off-Broadway, Off-off, and down the line. The more interesting stuff tends to be in those areas.

Short-stories have been, and still are, the "bleeding edge of our [i.e. genre] fiction", DeLancey said. "What would our fiction landscape look like if short-stories were gone?" he asked. Someone responded, "It'd be all Cats and Phantom of the Opera."

Though folks were quick to add, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." It's interesting to note how often I heard that phrase, especially when names like Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer came up. Moreso, it was the way it sometimes came out, like "I have to say that even though I secretly wish those people would go back where they came from."

Despite a bit of arguing (again, a story I've heard elsewhere) about the difference between what editors say their subscription numbers are vs. what appears in Locus, the number of stories published (again, what's "published" exactly?) as podcasts are booming.


I know I'm missing a few points, but I can always add those later. But here's what I took away...
  • I realize that at a lot of panels, one rarely walks away with any feeling of resolution. And I personally wouldn't have minded if there was a dissenting voice somewhere in the audience who would've said, "No, I don't care. Fuck short-stories!"
  • Yes, people care about short-stories. They're not going away.
  • Yes, it's a fact, publishers--the big ones--hate short-story collections. And yet, how exactly do we account for something like The New Space Opera 2?
  • If the short-story still has growth potential, it's not solely in print.

06 November 2009

Mad Pulp Ass-Kicking

Despite my brave words last week, I haven't stuck with NaNoWriMo as much as I would've liked.

The irony of it all is that the thing driving me (or most anyone) to do NaNo is the thing keeping me from it, namely the desire to write and get my shit out there. So, when I should've been NaNo-ing for the past few days, I've been doing the following...
  • Submitted two short-stories (one of which was rejected after one frakking day, but oh well--on to the next market)
  • Prepping two more for final submission (just a few MS tweaks according to particular market specifications)
  • Going through my published and unpublished stuff as potential entries for a short-short chapbook contest...
  • ...and to facilitate writing more material for the contest, I've reacquainted myself with the flash fiction section of the Zoetrope Virtual Studio. (Even scored myself an invite to a private office, where all the fun of Zoe really takes place!)
  • Preparing to run into some well-known authors at Astronomicon 11, if I can steel my resolve.
I'm not saying I've given up on NaNo entirely. What I am saying is that it's lower on the priority list than it was. I realized that my reasons going into it this year were somewhat faulty. I wanted an excuse to generate material, even though I had a backlog of stuff and a virtual notebook full of more ideas than I could ever use. I wanted that mad NaNo rush to get it all down. But why? For it's own sake? That's a good enough reason for most NaNo'ers but not for me, not this year.

I've been following Bill Cunningham's (d.b.a. The Mad Pulp Bastard) Pulp 2.0 blog for quite awhile, before I ever followed him on Twitter. And the other day, he gave me some advice as I twitter-pondered aloud about a story of mine which was bought and paid for, but never published...

And the Mad Pulp Bastard responded...

Now, the particular advice itself isn't as important as the spirit of it. The spirit of it said to me, Don, just get your shit out there.

There was a point where NaNoWriMo was a particular means to a particular end for me, and it served that end very ,very well. Then. Now, I know that finer, more experienced, and more published writers are doing it right this very second, but at this stage of the game--my game--it doesn't serve my ultimate end. Oh, I'll dabble and throw some words into the wordcount meter, to be sure. But if I don't hit 50k words, then meh. I'd rather put more effort into building on my 2009 publications and get a head start on 2010!

28 October 2009

Where Ideas Come From

In a 1970 interview with Rod Serling by sci-fi author James Gunn, Serling recalls...
...99% of the writing that arrives on the desk of a mass media guy is pretty therapeutic writing. These are people who generally preface by saying, "I ain't such a good writer but I got this real good idea in my dream after eating the rancid mayonaise..."
It's about 8'59" in...

26 October 2009

"Here we go again/ He's back in town again"

For the past two years, I've sworn off National Novel Writing Month. It's not that I've ever turned my nose up at it. It's just that I'm primarily a short-story writer, for one. And, more importantly, I've got a bit of a backlog of stuff that needs to be revised and submitted (or resubmitted). Plus, I've always had trouble wrapping my head around the idea of writing a novel. Besides having only one or two ideas that might possibly be big enough for that format, I get discouraged that I don't have the level of fortitude I see in the novel-writing members of my critique group.

But somewhere along the line, I've gotten out of the habit of drafting new stuff while rewriting old stuff. If you've read or heard Ray Bradbury's thoughts on writing, he'd probably tell me, "Yr doin' it rong." And it's bothered me for the past twelve months, which is why NaNoWriMo keeps me coming back.

I'm not too hung up on whether or not I finish. I did back in 2005 and haven't looked at the thing since, and since I've published a few things since then, it's all good. Basically, I'm in this because my feeble Jedi skillz need work and I figure NaNoWriMo is the best way to kill all these birds with one thirty-day stone.

I've got a strategy which involves...
  • Creating a novel of interlinked segments. Yes, you can check the NaNo boards for the endless debate about what constitutes a novel, but if Cat Valente's In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1) and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Madeleine Is Sleeping are novels, then so is my attempt, tentatively titled Thoughts of Reference.
  • Going through my notebook--I've accumulated and tagged all these items, and dammit, it's about time they started working for me.
  • Channeling Ray Bradbury, the master who demonstrated that it was possible to write a story a week. I'm attempting something a little more ambitious, but at the same time, isn't. All I'm after are first drafts!
You're all welcome to join me for the ride, though I make no promises as to how long that ride might be. I'm always glad to offer help & support, but I gotta warn you: I believe in doing unto others as I would have done unto me, so my help & support might look a little something like this...

If you're down with that, then by all means, look me up!

13 October 2009

"Help, I'm steppin' into the Twilight Zone"

The Twilight Zone: Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? (Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone) The Twilight Zone: Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? by Rod Serling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bought this adaptation of my favorite Twilight Zone episode at the 2009 Rod Serling Conference. Written and drawn for YA audiences, the adaptation is almost too faithful.

When I first saw this episode as a YA, I had no idea how gimmicky the twist was. Nor did I realize that Serling committed a major sci-fi writing faux pas when the alien showed how well he could pass himself off as a businessman but didn't know what it meant to be "wet."

I still love the twist, though, not from a plotting perspective, but from a character one. It was a life-lesson: no matter how slick you think you are, there's always someone slicker, so smugness doesn't pay. And despite the slight tweaks in this adaptation, that lesson remains.

View all my reviews >>

05 October 2009

Catching Up is Hard to Do

I've decided that part of the problems I've been having with writing have to do with all the stuff swimming in my psychic RAM that needs to be dumped out. So many blogworthy things going on; so little time to blog them. So, here goes.

Just 'cos there haven't been my usual Tough Love posts doesn't mean that I haven't been attending the biweekly evisceration. I just haven't had anything to be eviscerated, not by the group, anyway.

I'm eviscerating my current short story in-progress, formerly titled "The Six-Hundred Dollar Man." With every section of prose I clean up, I feel like I'm butting my head trying to stick to the story I want to tell.

You may be thinking, "Maybe it's not the story that needs to be told." Except I know in my gut it is.

And aside from that, I've got 3 other stories that I need to finish revising and send off.

I entered The First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge a little while back. The Second Place Winner has been posted. And I have to say, if that's second place, I think I'm pretty sure I didn't make First Place. :(

Last Friday & Saturday, I attended the 2009 Rod Serling Conference. I'm still processing the experience, a weekend filled with scholars, fans, and artists including Serling's surviving fammily and the legendary George Clayton Johnson on whose every word we hung.

A modern-day John the Baptist, if I ever saw one.

I'll blog the blow-by-blow later.

And now that I've taken time out to process my inbasket and tickler files, I can get some sleep and hit the WIP tomorrow.

22 September 2009

Shock, But No Awe

Futureshocks Futureshocks by Lou Anders

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The book fulfills part of its mission. The introductory essay is called "The Business of Lying," and Anders quotes U.K. LeGuin who writes, "Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive....Prediction is the business of phophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist's business is lying."

The collection definitely succeeds in being descriptive. Each writer's prose gives me a clear picture of the world of each story. I was disappointed that most of this clarity came by way of exposition and in more than one case, shameless infodumping--2-3 pages worth.

But that's not its worst failing.

The central question, emblazoned at the top of the cover, is "What Terror Does Tomorrow Hold?" My question was "Terror for whom?" To be sure, I wouldn't want to live in some of the tomorrows presented in this anthology. But when I ask myself what terror tomorrow holds for ME, with respect to this anthology, I'd answer: very little, provided I don't make the mistakes or manage to avoid the situations in which a lot of the characters of these stories find themselves.

That is, with one exception. "Absalom's Mother" by Louise Marley stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the stories! It's the only story where I cared about the characters. I was afraid for them and afraid of their world. Their emotions connected me to that world in a way that I wasn't to any of the other worlds presented. If the rest of the stories in the anthology did that, I might truly be afraid of tomorrow.

View all my reviews >>

19 September 2009

"Too many voices in my head"

2009-09-19 Mix

I can see the mystery in your eyes
Your voodoo just may fool the other guys
You can write your destiny
But between the lines I read
It's all in what your victims will believe
-Bill Champlin, "Tuggin' On Your Sleeve"
All the energy we spend on motion
All the circuitry and time
Is there any way to feel a body
Through fiber optic lines
-Cassandra Wilson, "Right Here, Right Now"

06 September 2009

Tough Love

...will return in two weeks. Because it's been hellish at the dayjob and I think I deserve to enjoy the holiday weekend, such as it is--I don't get a third day off.

So instead of busting my ass to get something done to get vivisected, I'm chilling out, watching US Open tennis, and a little later, I'm gonna drive out to a cookout with some friends to have, what Laura Nyro calls, a "Stoned Soul Picnic."

Speaking of, Nyro's a singer/songwriter I'm discovering again for the first time. Apparently, I've been listening to her songs for years, as covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears and other bands on rotation in my playlists. I kept seeing the name "Laura Nyro" come up as the composer--it's a kind of name that jumps out at you. So I looked her up and now I'm binging on her music!

But I digress. You'll have to excuse me. I got very little sleep last night and I'm finding myself struggling to gather the energy to get to the cookout that I'm blowing off crit group to go to.

[Edited to add] The day after I wrote this, I found out that I've been living in the same town as Nyro's brother and have seen the group he conducts, Vitamin L, perform several times!

25 August 2009

Kinda Dead Inside

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl TPB X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl TPB by Peter Milligan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't get as much of a kick out of this as I did Milligan's original X-Force/X-Statix run. Dead Girl didn't stick to its premise, which was to take shots at the trope of comics characters dying and come back. Milligan took shots at every trope as it came up--Dr. Strange's quirks, his servant's, the supervillain getting repeatedly beaten, etc.--and even threw in some self-referential X-Statix stuff.

It's good for a single read but in the end, it felt like I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League by Giffen and DeMatteis, a phoned-in return to the good ol' days.

View all my reviews >>

24 August 2009

Tough Love

Finally finished the work in progress and brought the ending to the biweekly abatoir that is my critique group.

Remember the last few times when the Win list was longer than the Fail list? Not this time, but that's okay. It's called a "puke draft" for a reason. Not only that, I brought about 3 times as many words as I'd brought before--of course the Fail list was going to be longer!

For the Win
  • Folks liked my description of the painful way the protagonist "solved" his problem.
  • Those scenes had a "feeling of menace and chaos."
  • Praise for how I cashed in on a couple of plot points from the beginning of the story. (It's funny--I had no idea I was gonna do that.)
  • The usual praise about dialogue, prose, etc.
  • Unresolved question #1: What are the stakes? (Yikes!)
  • Other unresolved questions:
    • What exactly is the protagonist's motivation for getting involved in this "strange, new world" in the first place?
    • Why does he choose such a drastic solution to an unclear problem?
    • In fact, isn't he making matters worse?
    • What's his sister's motivation, 'cos the way she pushes the protagonist and where she pushes him to makes her look like more of a bad guy than the bad guy?
    • What did the bad guy want that was so bad?
  • I definitely strayed from the idea of "cultural tension" that I started out with in the beginning.
The entire puke draft clocked in at over 7300 words, so there's a lot of tightening and rethinking to do. In a way, this piece is a victory because it's been so long since I just cranked out a first draft of a "full-length" story with as little looking back as possible.

I've got a good feeling about this story though. I know all the pieces are there, even if they're in a jumble.

21 August 2009

Force of Will

Willful Creatures Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I gave it the same rating as Bender's previous collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt even though I did like that one a little better. I seem to remember it being a little more playful than this collection.

This collection had its playful moments, but I sensed a little more pain in these characters. I'll have to reread Flammable Skirt again to be sure. The characters are definitely the best part of each story. A lot of them were odd or fantastic, but still relatable, with more or less the same sorts of problems as mundane folk.

Aside from attempting to channel Lydia Davis at times (e.g. "The Meeting), the prose is really well-done, to boot.

View all my reviews >>

18 August 2009

So You Think You Can Just Waltz Back In Here?

Looks like LoudTwitter came back yesterday and pumped yesterday's tweets back out. Thing is, I kinda got used to not having it around. I was warming up to the idea of actually blogging, like now.

It's like when an ex-girlfriend you know you're better off without comes back around looking all hot. Now I'm torn. I want to hold her, even though my head is screaming, "You have some goddamn nerve coming back after the way you left!" :)

Anyway, LoudTwitter, I need time to think about it. So I'm going to turn it back off for now. But, I have your number.

17 August 2009

"All Afternoon Those Birds Twitter Twit"

  • 08:17 Feeling sorry for all the suckers at the Diamond Mine retreat today! #
  • 08:18 Oh noes! I'll miss Wednesday's all-staff meeting. The important info I'll miss!! Not. #
  • 08:42 RT @drmabuse Dave Eggers whistles on Aimee Mann's new album... (What next? Vollmann firing his pistol on the next Kings of Leon album?) #
  • 10:10 Feeling stressed out as I realize just how thick my "in" pile has gotten. Where's my shovel? #gtd #
  • 10:35 Easily the best roadtrip hack I've ever seen! bit.ly/4FBHpA #
  • 11:21 Inbox-sorting Playlist: @swingout sister mix. It's like an archeological dig. Only have 1 layer done. :( #gtd #
  • 12:23 Inbox processed! Now, I feel like I deserve to eat. :) #
  • 14:51 "Oh it's too hot/ Too hot, lady/ Gotta run for shelter/ Gotta run for shade." #lyrics ♫ blip.fm/~buxv5 #
  • 15:11 Done with organizing (read: procrastinating). Can't put off errands or writing anymore, despite the heat. *sigh* #
  • 16:43 On page 127 of 224 of Willful Creatures. 5* for "I Will Pick Out Your Ribs (From My Teeth) tho it reminds me of my psycho-ex. #
  • 16:52 Errands 1/2 done. At the PM writing spot wh ich is almost crowded! Grr. Summer's definitely winding down. #
  • 17:40 Got an outlet just as my battery was in the danger zone. I was actually starting to write stuff :). #
  • 18:10 Dammit, dammit, dammit. The last 100 words of the #wip have to go. Makes the protragonist look too passive. Dammit!! #
  • 18:12 Just realized it as I was listening to the chorus of the song "Without You" by @billchamplin: "How am I to find my way? Where am I to go?" #
  • 18:48 Frak me, I just figured out how the #wip needs to end!! I've even got the last line worked out. Just need a little more research. #
  • 18:49 S crew you, writer's block! How ya like me, now? :) #
Via LoudTwitter

15 August 2009


Local Local by Brian Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book deserves all the hype it's gotten. The total package, from start to finish, is an evolution in every sense of the word--the evolution of the character, the writing, the art, even the series concept. And I could tell that even before I read as much in the backmatter.

The main character, Megan, sums up her story and the point of the book (not just as a whole, but in each of the interconnected stories in each issue) thus:
You need to do what's best for you, even if it means leaving some people behind, burning some bridges, severing some ties. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't. You only get one shot. Take it when you can, and don't blow it.
This sort of advice can only be given by someone who did just that, and who took shots and actually did blow them sometimes. Most writers fall back into the grosser antisocial behaviors--alcholism, drug use, and other Raymond Carver-type stuff--to illustrate dirty and gritty. Here, Wood & Kelly show that the pain of just making mistakes and learning from them can be just as dramatic.

View all my reviews >>

09 August 2009

Tough Love

I feel like a writer again, having brought the most words (1.5k) than I have in weeks to the crit group. Of course, that's more to be vivisected. The good news is that the win column on this latest bit of my short story seems to be longer than the fail column!

For the Win
  • The story remains "intriguing."
  • One reader was glad to be able to understand my world's tech as I've written it (she isn't typically a sci-fi reader). Another appreciated [I'm paraphrasing, here] the lack of technobabble.
  • More praise for my dialogue. One person in particular noted that when characters are asked questions, no one really gets a "direct answer." Put by another reader, the answers are given "how real people talk."
  • There "wasn't a dull place" in the section I brought.
  • Praise for the family dynamics I illustrated between the main character, his sister and his parents.
  • My descriptions about emotional reactions were "sparse" yet "dynamic."
  • Unclear to some readers "where we're going from here." Namely, with regard to an important secondary character's plans for the protagonist being unnecessarily vague.
  • A couple of lines that need to be rearranged for clarity.
  • A plot point about a lie that didn't really make sense.
So, maybe on my road trip to Boston, Mass tomorrow, I can at least give some thought to where I'm going from here. 'Cos hell if I know.

07 August 2009

"You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?"

I'm proud of myself! I only have one "before" picture. The rest is (semi-) finshed product.

Still lots to rearrange, sort, and maybe dump. I've got my eye out for a new desk. Something without a hutch and with lots of space on top. But I consider this major headway on something that's been bugging me for the better part of this year. I was finally inspired to do something after months at leering at the productivity pr0n that is the Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Flickr group.

02 August 2009


Fell Volume 1: Feral City Fell Volume 1: Feral City by Warren Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Why the hell did I put off buying this for so long? I've read about it for years, Ellis's experimental 9-panel 16 pg comic with art by Ben Templesmith.

Fans of Ellis's writing will find a lot to love, here: a flawed hero who wins some and loses some, odd and sometimes disturbing facts seamlessly woven into the story, and not too much of, as another reviewer said, the usual ranting.

Two nits: The style of Fell's dialogue sometimes blends into that of the minor characters, which is to say into Warren Ellis speak. Consider my favorite line, a bit from a narration box by Detective Richard Fell:
Grab a death coffee from Mr. Yang, the food pervert. He melts a Hershey bar into a pot of filter coffee, pours a 1602 and then drops a depth-charge of espersso on it. And maybe crystal meth. I don't know anymore what feels worse: Having one death coffee a day, or skipping it. I can already feel my internal organs going into crisis mode. At the end of my shift, the world's going to fall out of my butt.
As much as I'd love this coffee, the writing is the same stuff I read daily on Ellis's blog.

Second nit is that, like Desolation Jones, I'm left hanging, waiting for more adventures. The last issue published was #9, which I bought awhile ago. I didn't realize that I now have the entire series! :(

View all my reviews >>

29 July 2009

Get Rich Quick

The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories by John Kessel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Genre-blending," to me, usually means"genre+literary" (whatever "literary" means). But a lot of the blending in this collection is "genre + genre," as in the historical-crime/fantasy story "Every Angel is Terrifying," or the future-crime/sci-fi first movement of the Lunar Quartet, "The Juniper Tree."

Kessel's historical/literary mash-ups were brilliant, too: Orson Welles in a sci-fi story ("It's All True")--who'd have thought? The name and spirit of Tyler Durden carrying on in a lunar colony in the second movement of the Lunar Quartet, "Stories for Men." "Pride and Prometheus" is a Nebula award winner for good reason!

My favorite thing, from a technical standpoint, is the near-flawless worldbuilding in each story, done such that the story's obvious themes are never heavy-handed or preachy.

What made it one star short of five was the third movement of The Lunar Cycle. The cycle is comprised of 4 stories, one of them almost 80 pages long--and we all know how I feel about stories that go on longer than the average story by Etgar Keret or Lydia Davis. Oddly enough, I loved the longest story ("Stories for Men"). It was the significantly shorter story immediately after it, "Under the Lunchbox Tree." It's obviously supposed to be more low-key, but it still seems anticlimactic.

You can download the collection for free, from Small Beer Press, in multiple formats. I did, and I immediately knew I had to have the TPB.

View all my reviews >>

28 July 2009


Stories from two of my favorite authors appear in the same episode of PRI's Selected Shorts: Aimee Bender's "Drunken Mimi" and "Death Watch" (read by Bernadette Qugley) and Etgar Keret's "Your Man" and "Shooting Tuvia" (read by David Rakoff).

27 July 2009

Tough Love

I low-balled my wordcount for yesterday's critique group crucifixion session again. 820 words. Just couldn't get the story done, but I did bring something. Better to light an inch than curse the darkness after all, no?

I took bits of the next scene I'd planned and decided to staple it to the end of the scene I brought last time. An obvious decision that you just don't see when you're in the midst of a puke draft. Comments were as follows...

Story Win
  • I was a little clearer about the way the tech in this story works.
  • Tension was raised
  • Like last week, readers like the interaction between the protagonist and his sister.
  • I painted a clear picture of the protagonist being a little foolhardy, yet barreling ahead anyway.
  • Hm...I made a note of "Not a lot of words," but I've forgotten what that meant...?
Story Fail
  • Anything involving the color green and computer coding will always say The Matrix.
  • [I'm paraphrasing here] The form of the tech in my story, as I describe it, doesn't follow the function I describe. Or at least, I'm overcomplicating it.
  • [Edited to add] I evidently don't know how to spell the singular of lenses.
Thank God for the techies in my group, that's all I have to say! :)


Shortcomings Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow, if I'd taken a precious few different turns in life, I might have ended up exactly like the protagonist of this story, Ben. Definitely hit close to home.

This may be the first time, though, that I've come across a protagonist I didn't like. And I've read lots and lots of Carver (with whose work Tomine's is often compared). Yes, the ending of Ben's story is open to interpretation, but to me it's pretty clear. Based on what I read, what Ben sees at the end is what he has and maybe all he'll ever have.

View all my reviews >>

[Note to self: How come I've never used this feature from goodreads before???]

21 July 2009

Readin', Writin', Race

Two of my stories--"Good for the Gander" and "Tough Love"--have been listed in the 2009 Short Fiction by People of Color on the Carl Brandon Society wiki, and on the CBS's blog as well.

It's been a prompt for me to finally give some thought about readin', writin', & race.


Oh, wait--you were expecting me to have thought those thoughts and expound on them? Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet. But, I have considered a few back-of-the-envelope points.

I've put off thinking about this topic since I started spewing words onto paper five or so years ago. I had horrible visions of writing some manifesto that starts "As an Asian-American writer, I..." or writing some story about some thirtysomething First Generation Flipino.

For years I've been hiding behind my beginner status. (You could make a good argument that I should keep doing just that!) "Just learn how to write and get to the race stuff later," I told myself. And to be honest, I never felt any real pressure to get to it. But not only did I feel some internal pressure, and it was a horrible push/pull situation. I subconsciously feared how much would be riding on writing "my "Filipino story." I was probably overthinking the whole thing. Thing is, growing up Filipino and Catholic instills a fear of fucking up like you wouldn't believe.

(or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Race in My Writing Until I Had Something to Say")

The only thing I can offer in my defense is that you wouldn't have wanted to read any "Filipino story" I might've written 2-3 years ago. But as it happens, I'm working on a piece right now with Filipino characters. Not because of any pressure, nor to make any particular statement. I've got a yarn to spinl about certain characters who've grown up a certain way, who have made or will make choices about their life paths.

More to come later, maybe.

18 July 2009

Law Unto Myself, Part II

I'm seeing all sorts of Twitter users with actually "follow policies." I understand it, really I do. I get spammers, too. But I haven't read a follow policy yet that doesn't seem like so much overkill.

The simple act of telling myself "You are not going to waste time thinking about a Twitter policy" was enough to make my brain start generating ideas. Luckily, I stopped it cold before it could get any further than this.
Don's Twitter Follow Policy

I will follow you only if: you can at least fool me into thinking you're (a) not a bot and (b) tweeting about things I could maybe, possibly care about.

I will not follow you if: you really can't manage both of the simple things I've listed above.

I will block you if: I feel like it.
'Nuff said, isn't it?

17 July 2009

A Rare Chance to Be a Law Unto Myself

Not sure exactly when this started, but Blogger evidently lets you set a message on the comment form for your entries. Mine reads...
No words about civilized commenting behavior. Just a reminder that this blog is here to serve my freedom of speech, not yours!

I reserve the right to arbitrarily wield my moderation power like a child who just found his father's handgun.

So, whaddya say?
I know, it's not like I get a ton of comments around here, especially during the long, long period where this site was nothing but reposted tweets. But eventually, something I write will invite comment and when it does, I'll be waiting with my hand on the button like an FCC agent at an Andrew Dice Clay show.

14 July 2009

We Never Talk About My Brother

The newest edition to my all-time favorite books list is We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle, which is surprising given how long a lot of these pieces are. Remember all the Etgar Keret and Lydia Davis I'd read recently. But the pieces kept me engaged.

The reviews are everywhere. If you're a goodreads member, you can read some of my story-by-story status updates/reviews.

13 July 2009

Tough Love

Yesterday's biweekly critique group evisceration was more like a knuckle-rapping, since I was only able to bring the very next scene of my WIP, about 750 words long. So, it doesn't make sense for this entry to be very long :).

For the Win:
  • Did a good job portraying the protagonist's squeamishness at the DIY operation he was undergoing.
  • Did a good job portraying the sibling relationship between the protag and his sister.
  • A minor plot point that demonstrated my poor understanding of chemistry :(
  • A couple of viewpoint errors
  • Still not enough information for the (group) readers' tastes about what the protag is after. (It was 95% clear to the "tech guy" in our group, but after all, he's a "tech guy.")
I should continue with this piece but for today, I've got a contest entry to prep :).

11 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth

There will be some vague spoilers. Read at your own risk!

io9 asked Is Torchwood Finally Becoming Better Than Doctor Who? I say yes, absolutely.

The writing on this five-part story arc is as tight as anything--anything--I've ever seen on TV. I know John Barrowman felt like Torchwood was being "punished" when the number of episodes for Series 3 was slashed from thirteen, but if it resulted in writing like this, then I'm all for it!

I'm still speechless from the whole thing. Yes, I did see some minor, minor plot problems but they were so easy to miss. I had to rewatch and rethink to find them because as a writer, you don't want to believe something could be so utterly perfect. I never thought I'd hear myself utter these words: The inconsistencies really don't matter.

And I'm not turned off by the darkness, either. This isn't Doctor Who after all. The nature of this alien threat is one order of magnitude more disturbing than Daleks wanting to exterminate the human race again. And this isn't Independence Day or Star Trek where the best parts of humanity shine in an extraterrestrial crisis. This is a story about the darker sides of "civilized" people. About the zone between hypocrisy and pragmatism, and the horror that often dwells there. And the terrible price of trying to take the moral high ground and failing.

This story was as apocalyptic as it could get without nuclear annihilation or zombies. Because it was about the death of souls.

You were warned about spoilers! So, I don't want to hear it.

I know a lot of fans are upset about Captain Jack's actions. I'm not big on Christ figures, but I've never seen it pulled off this brilliantly (not even Russell T. Davies's earlier attempt). Jack literally took the sins of the world (well, that of world governments) on himself, paying the price that they would have to pay otherwise.

You know, I'm going to stop for now, because I'm still struck dumb...

03 July 2009

Chapter XXXVI

Kinda like last year, I got some of the best presents a writer can get.

My favorite, I have to say, was the one I got for myself--the newest productivity tool. It's not tech. I finally got the Moleskine Planner cover I wanted from Renaissance Art, which is the most stylish hPDA case you could ever ask for!

Other presents included...

Two vintage Doctor Who novelisations: Earthshock by Ian Marter, published by Target and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks, published by Pinnacle. The Pinnacle books were the ones with the cool introduction by Harlan Ellison.

Birthday love from family and friends via phone, email, snail-mail, messages in bottles, etc.

And as another present to myself, the opportunity to help the cause of highlighting the work of writers of color. Like me :)

Not a bad start, I daresay.

Kickin' It Old School

We've all been so proud of our blindness
No kindness to share
I used to cry for the lost
Until I had to turn away
Then I looked inside
Past the fool
And found some deeper words to say

-Chicago, "Cry for the Lost"
Since LoudTwitter is dead, I've shunted my Twitter feed over to a widget on the sidebar. Just as well, really. I've been feeling the itch to bust out of the 140-character mode and stretch a little.

We'll see how long it lasts.

01 July 2009

@Reflection's Edge

"Tough Love"

Shouldn't be surprised that the editor of the 'zine labeled this one, which had a working title of "Love Potion #10" as Fantasy/Romance. Needless to say, the romance writers in my critique group were overjoyed!

29 June 2009

"All Afternoon Those Birds Twitter Twit"

  • 03:54 "Four in the morning came without a warning..." #lyrics #insomnia ♫ blip.fm/~92i50 #
  • 04:01 On page 36 of 256 of We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle. 5* for "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel." Slow pace paid... #
  • 07:26 3 hours of sleep. God, why?? Oh yeah, the coffee I drank while cleaning out the closet :( #
  • 07:52 Damn you, red-eye. You are a cruel mistress. Yet, I always come back... :( #
  • 07:56 twitpic.com/8r0hw - Sure it doesn't look like much now. It took culling of 4 yrs worth of BS to get here. #
  • 09:20 FTW: Thursday off for a 3 day work week! Thinking I should've taken today off and gone back to bed, but this works, too. :) #
  • 09:53 My birthday gift to myself! It'll be a literal Xmas in July! bit.ly/6EzH4 #
  • 11:47 Yesterday's crit group evisceration posted, incl. the best advice I've gotten in awhile. bit.ly/Od21C #
  • 13:13 Cafe where I'm eating lunch isn't helping my sleep deprivation playing the slow version of "Valerie." Hence... ♫ blip.fm/~935hw #
  • 13:43 Got caught in the rain sans umbrella twice in as many days. Am soaked and unhappy! OTOH I am more awake. #
  • 16:59 Got to leave work early. Bypassed PM writing spot. Need bed....zzzz. #
  • 17:11 Letting playlist of missed podcasts lull me to naptime. #
  • 19:12 Had a nap & dinner. Almost feel like a real human being again :). #
  • 19:19 Lots of good stuff in this Odyssey podcast: Bruce Holland Rogers on Flash Fic Structures, Pt. 2 bit.ly/WoQPm #mp3 #
Via LoudTwitter

Tough Love

The Critique

Yesterday's crit group crucixion--painful as ever, but it was one of those sessions where a lightbulb went off in my head that will affect my writing positively from here on out.

I attempted two things with this story: (a) to finally break down whatever wall that's prevented me from writing something connected to my Asian-American experience ( as well as develop another niche to pimp out my stories) and (b) to write about a fascinating sub-culture that I've only a passing familiarity with.

How did I do, according to my critique group?

  • Set-up was "intriguing"
  • Usual compliment re: my "hip rhythm," esp. w/dialogue
  • A sci-fi story w/a lot of tech stuff, but still about people/characters having to make particular choices.
  • One reader got "everything I need to know about the [protagonist's] family [of origin] dynamic."
  • (From the tech guy in the group, keeping me honest) Nix the term "RFID," which is already dated (my story takes place, oh, about 15 minutes in the future).
  • Need to be clearer what I'm talking about when I make other references (e.g. to cochlear implants, etc.)
  • Not really clear how pervasive and powerful the tech is that I'm writing about.
  • Protagonist's motivations unclear--is what the protagonist doing legal? How does he feel about the world he's about to step into? Why's he stepping into it? (Grrr!)
  • Short debate about expanding/expounding on technical descriptions but being careful not to do that at the expense of character.
  • The most helpful comment and the one I'll take to heart for the rest of forever: To make the world of my story as clear as I made the protagonist's family-of-origin dynamic!
Duh! Not that I didn't know I should do that, but it helps to have an example to point to in my head.