Baltimore Book Festival and New Picture

In an ongoing quest to get better at public speaking, I’m going to be a panelist at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival. It’s located at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from September 23-25th. I’ll definitely be there Sunday (because that’s when my panels are happening) and possibly Saturday too, just to hang out and help out.

Anyways, here’s my schedule:

  • Short Fiction: The Heart of SFF – Sunday @ 1pm
    • Short works have always been important to science fiction and fantasy. Hear why and how short fiction showcases the best of our genres. Learn where the hot stories are being published, and get answers to all your questions from our panel of acclaimed short fiction writers.
  • Near Future/Far Future – Sunday @ 3pm
    • Look at what goes into science fiction that’s right around the corner versus light years ahead. How are they similar and different?What happens when fiction comes true?

 

In other news, one of my favorite things about becoming a writer is all the wonderful and talented friends I’ve made over the years. For example, my friend Steve Schultz is a writer, but in recent years has picked up photography again, specifically focusing on portraits. He’s been shooting all his friends.

So, thanks to him, I have a new author photo.

 

DSC_1245_PP01

I’m told the picture makes me look a bit mischievous. I’m quite pleased.

A Non-Hero’s Music and Story News

So, two pieces of news. First, “A Non-Hero’s Guide to the Road of Monsters” is now live over at Mothership Zeta. Meaning you can read it for free right now!

The song that acted as the soundtrack was “The Mute” by Radical Face. Seriously, the early drafts of this story was literally just the main character’s voice and this song playing on loop.

Second, Strange Horizons is going to publish one of my stories at the end of the year! It’s called “Dido, Retold” and I’m beyond thrilled. I’ll be posting more information when I have it!

In the meantime, I’m looking for new book recommendations. What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments.

Six Years Ago

Six years ago, almost to the day, I signed up for my first writing class. I had graduated college a few months before, had a new place and a new job. Suddenly, my evenings were homework free, I knew no one in my new neighborhood, and I was bored. I’d always loved stories and I always wanted to create my own. So, I signed up for a short story class at the local night school.

I still have friends from that class. I’m still apologizing for those first few terrible, terrible stories I inflicted on them. And it was the first of many classes I would take, slowly forcing me to get more adventurous and more comfortable with driving on all sorts of roads in all sorts of conditions. Most of the classes weren’t particularly profound, but they gave me a deadline and a captive audience to try different stories techniques on, as well as an opportunity to get to meet other writers in the area. I had no idea what I was doing and I sort of just tried.

Actually, I still have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m getting better at pretending I do.

Six years later, I am officially a ‘pro’ writer, with seven SFWA qualifying sales to my name – the most recent being a sale to one of my favorite markets Beneath Ceaseless Skies (!!!). I now have a fabulous and talented circle of friends locally and in half a dozen different time zones. I’m part of some great critique groups and beta read for a lot of amazing writers. I’ve worked for a few magazines, slush reading and interviewing authors. I’ve gotten fan mail and fan art.

Yet, part of me hoped I would be further along in my writing career by now. There are still so many goals that I haven’t met yet and I’ve had so many failures. My storytelling ability is nowhere near where I want it to be and I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t ask myself “Why am I doing this?”

But I also know now that if there’s one thing that writing takes, it’s time.

Six years ago, I didn’t know how fun, gratifying, frustrating, and miserable writing is, sometimes all at the same time. It’s nothing short of a roller coaster ride and an exercise in determination and patience.

I won’t lie, today has been a particularly rough day for me in terms of writing (rejections still sting more than I like and my stories are all stubborn things). But even now, looking back, do I regret signing up for that first, overpriced class?

No. No, I really don’t.

Goings and Comings: November 2015

I’ll be at Philcon this year on Saturday, November 21st. It’s my fourth time going to the con, but this year they were kind enough to invite me to be a panelist. Sweet!

Here’s my schedule:

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Tolkien’s Women
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Using Language Creatively
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM How Gaming is Important to Fandom
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Using Real Life in Fantasy
8:30 PM – 9 PM Author Reading

Now, I just have to figure out which story to belabor regale listeners with Saturday evening. Hope to see you there!

Tag! You’re It! The 777 Challenge Edition

Hooray for friends prompting me to write blog posts occasionally. Tam MacNeil was kind enough to tag me for the 777 Challenge.

The rules are simple: Post 7 sentences of your work, start on page 7, count 7 lines down. But because I’m a rule breaker and/or don’t want this sample to end mid-thought, I’m going to post a few additional sentences. This is a short story I’m working on with the placeholder title: A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters.

I climb the nearest tree, which is not an easy feat one handed, let me tell you. But what I lack in abs I make up in triceps and quads of steel. Within five minutes I’m sitting in the tree’s crown looking down at the most amazing monster I’ve ever seen.

Forget its enormous size and its many, many talons on its many, many feet (that’s what heroes notice first, anyway), it’s neither a newt or hawk or even a snake.

It’s all of them.

From my perch, the monster looks like a starfish, with each arm containing the torso, forepaws, and head of a different creature. (You’ve guess it, a lion, a snake, a newt, a hawk and a hyena.) I can see now why the heroes were so confused. From the ground, depending on the angle the monster stood at, it either would appear to be one of these animals or a combination of a few of them.

Most heroes would be shaking from nerves or adrenaline or whatever right about now. But me, I’m wearing a smile that stretched ear to ear. I have yet to meet a monster that I couldn’t reason with and this one was going to make a fantastic blog post.

And now I just need to figure out how the silly story ends. In the meantime, I’m tagging (challenging?) Karl Dandenell, John D. Murphy and Laurel Amberdine next.

Writer’s Blog Tour: Four Questions

And here we are! I was tagged to answer some questions about my work and process by the wonderful Casey Blair. If you haven’t already, you should check out her thoughtful post.

What Am I Working On?

I usually have several stories in progress at any given time, all in different stages of creation. The one I’m currently fighting working on is about a young woman stuck in a time machine that can only travel backwards in time. Originally, it was only supposed to be 750 words, but that length didn’t do the story justice. So, it’s growing. I can’t say much more about it yet because it’s still in that OHMYGODWHATAMIDOINGJUSTKEEPGOINGFIXITLATER stage. But I think it’s going to have a happy(ish) ending.

How Does My Work Differ From Others in the Genre?

My stories are by no means reinventing the speculative fiction genre as we know it. That takes too much effort. (I jest, but Blair MacGregor makes a good point about novelty here.)

But I love taking different slants on tropes and I like experimenting with voices and point-of-views. I also try to keep characters unburdened with physical descriptions; I won’t tell you the color of their eyes or skin and I definitely won’t tell you how tall they are. Lately I’ve been experimenting with keeping their gender ambiguous too. The way I see it, this way the reader can make the characters their own. And it gets me around the obstacle of having to describe appearances – something which I’ve never enjoyed writing. For me, I hear my character’s voices, see their world from their eyes and know what their hands and mouths are doing. But their faces, for some reason, never stay with me.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

Snarky answer: Because I can.

Less snarky answer: Because each story is an experiment and an attempt at pushing my abilities in some way. Each one is written for a particular reader in mind – whether it’s a friend or my younger self. (Not that I ever tell anyone which one is which – always keep your readers guessing.)

My stories tend to be pretty dark and/or sad because I have a hard time caring about a character unless their situation is dire and the odds are stacked against them. Mostly, I like to write about protagonists who are fighting for something they’ve lost – or are going to lose. It buys them sympathy, even if they don’t deserve it.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Very slowly. Stories of substance usually take a month to write. Or six.

My stories usually start with a seed – an image or phrase. The first draft is always the hardest for me. My demon is the endless, daunting white page that needs to be filled. Which is why I start most of my stories scribbling fragments in an old composition notebook. Not a fancy journal – a mass produced, squat, cardboard bound, wide ruled notebook. Basically, my notebooks are not allowed to be prettier than my words at this stage. At this point, there is a lot of jibberish and many crossed out lines. There are character profiles in the margins and notes to myself. Line edits are done on the fly while sentences are constantly being reworked as I transcribe them into Word. Which is why my grammar is always off.

Revisions, though, are a little easier. After the first draft, I have something to work with, there are words on the page and it’s no longer so daunting. Every story goes through a beta reader, sometimes many beta readers. Every story is revised. Some stories only need two revisions before I’m happy with them and some need five.

One of my instructors at VP told us that you never learn how to write a novel, you only learn how to write this novel. And to a certain extent, I think that’s true of short stories as well. Every time I sit down to write a new story, I have to learn how it wants to be told.

***

Phew. I did it. Now it’s my friends’ Bernie Mojzes, Sarah Pinsker, and Jessi Cole Jackson turn. Check them out!

And if you’re interested in even more blogs on the tour, I’ve already mentioned Blair and Casey, but Nicole Lisa, Tam McNeil, and Fran Wilde have wonderful posts up too!

ETA: My VP classmates and friends Debra Jess and Arun Jiwa are also participating. Check them out!