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!

Updated and News – February 2014

So it’s been a while since I posted last. In the last few months I’ve been traveling and visiting friends and of course, writing like mad. Hopefully I’ll have something to show for that last bit soon.

So, briefly two update:

1. My story “I’m Still Here” is coming out in Buzzy Mag tomorrow! It’s crazy to think that I started writing this story two years ago. I remember thinking that there was no way I could pull this story off. Glad I was wrong.

Will post the link when it goes live. (And it’s live)

2. The 2014 Campbell Anthology is now out and available for download for free here. It’s a collection of stories by new writers who have published professionally in the last two years. So basically, it means FREE STORIES. And lots of them. There are 111 different authors in it. And one of them happens to be me, which is kind of completely awesome.

And that’s it I think? Maybe. Hopefully. Probably not.

News and Updates

Last month I resigned from my position as Editorial Assistance at Every Day Fiction. I had been reading for EDF for over two years and learned so much about storytelling and the industry while I was there. But I wanted to spend more time writing and move on to other things.

It seems though, I wasn’t off the hook that quickly. Another opportunity presented itself mere days after I handed in my notice (more or less). Flash Fiction Chronicles (EDF’s sister site) was looking for an interviewer that would talk to the author of the top story at EDF each month.

I don’t have much experience interviewing, but I guess I didn’t have much experience when I started writing either. So, naturally, I accepted.

If you would like to see my very first interview, it can be found here. My first victim (not really – I hope) is Dustin Adams, author of the story The Gift. This was lots of fun and I hope you enjoy it too.

Viable Paradise: The Aftermath (With a present for you, dear reader)

Viable Paradise = A fantastic experience. Really I could stop there, but I’m assuming you’re here for the details. So quickly, because I still have a hard time describing it in words, here’s what VP was like.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room with 40 some people. 23 are new and nervous like you, the others are old hands who are thrilled to have the opportunity to teach you. And they will. They’ll fill your head with so much information, you’ll walk away wondering how you ever could have been so ignorant. You’ll exchange recommendations for books, movies, podcasts, and booze and you’re “MUST TRY” list will grow to legendary lengths.

At VP, I was a Thing, I saw a sunset and a sunrise, drank my share of scurvy cure, survived the horror that was Thursday and I got some of the best advice about writing and life.

I highly recommend VP to anyone interested in speculative fiction. You’ll not only learn more than you think you can in one week, but you’ll make dozens of new friends that you know will be there as for you as you continue to write and grow.

Too vague? Yes, I know. The most incoherent post I’ve ever written? Probably. But I’ll make it up to you with a present. Jim MacDonald and Debra Doyle generously gave me the promo code for a free copy of their story Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistrita on Smashwords. And now I’m sharing it with you (with their blessing, of course).

The link can be found here
The code is: QF86G

The code is good until November 9th, 2012.

And now I must get some writing done and deal with the plot tomatoes in my story. Want to know what plot tomatoes are? You’re just going to have to ask the instructors yourself at the next Viable Paradise.

A Book Lover’s Tale

I am a book creeper. I love looking over strangers’ shoulders to see what they’re reading; whether they borrowed it from the library or it’s worth buying in hardcover, whether the author is a household name or someone that is still mostly unknown. E-readers are the bane of my existence.

Public transportation is the best place for this, particularly trains and subways. I’m usually reading too, so the way I see it, it’s fair game.

But a few weeks ago I was on the train to Baltimore and the unimaginable happened – I had no book to read. I tried to keep myself entertained during the ride: I fidgeted with my phone, scanned the emergency procedure pamphlet tucked in the seat in front of me, studied the scenery. It worked for about twenty minutes.

I was also trying to figure out which book the guy next to me was reading. I knew it was one of the Millennium Series novels, but I couldn’t figure out which one without being completely obvious. So, I broke the rules of book creeping (desperate times called for desperate measures) and I asked him.

Turns out, he was one of those bookworms who didn’t mind being interrupted from his book.

Honestly, I can’t remember what his name was, but let’s call him Matt. Matt was on a mission to read the book before he saw the movie. He’d realized that Hollywood rarely did justice to the original story. Which was why he was reading The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.

As we talked I realized that Matt was a late bloomer, in the bookworm sense at least. He admitted that he never really liked books until recently and he talked about the novels he read with a new found excitement. He was probably one of those guys in high school who scanned Sparknotes and asked kids like me was the major themes of the book were.

“It’s kinda a shame that I didn’t read more sooner,” he said, “books are really great.”

It was actually a really nice conversation. I think I recommended I, Robot and I am Legend as well as The Girl Who Played with Fire. But it made me wonder what makes reading a passion for people. Why do some people gravitate instantly to it as soon as they have a basic understanding of letters while others discover it later? And why do some people never find it at all?

I think it’s partially attributed to attention span. But mostly I think it’s based on the reader’s ability to believe in someone that doesn’t exist and to be able to empathize with that imaginary person. Books become a passion when you’re not just reading words on a page, but taking them in and believing them without reservation.

Right before the train got to the station and we gathering up our things, Matt leaned over and said: “You know the Harry Potter movies? They suck compared to the novels.”

And so J. K. Rowling welcomes another fan to her legions.

Viable Paradise XVI

So I don’t normally let people know which magazines I currently have stories submitted to or what programs I’ve applied for.  I’m more of the suffer-in-silence type.  But when I get answers back, well that’s something different.  This spring I applied to a workshop in Martha’s Vineyard called Viable ParadiseAnd to my great surprise, I got in. This year the teachers are Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald, Steven Gould, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Steven Brust and Sherwood Smith. Wicked right?

This is my first workshop ever and I’m not quite sure what to expect and even though I’ve gotten my acceptance several weeks ago, the excitement hasn’t gotten old yet!

The Hunger Games: The Book vs the Film


So, like the rest of the world, my sister and I went to see The Hunger Games opening weekend.  I’d read the books way before there were any whispers of a movie and thoroughly enjoyed them.  I suppose you could call me a fan (not a very good one, mind you.  I’ve only read the series once and I don’t have the Mockingjay insignia tattooed on my skin).  I genuinely care about the characters and was worried about what the silver screen would do to my image of Panem and the people in it.  And considering Hollywood’s track record, I had my doubts.But I found I enjoyed the movie.  It captured the mood of the book and the acting and storytelling were strong and concise.  Yes, it had its shortcomings; it didn’t have the same emotional depth as the book and the character relationships got short changed.  But these things are to be expected in book-to-movie adaptions.

Now, if you’ve been online anytime since the movie opened, you probably came across a review and/or rant about the details that pleased and irked critics the most.  Being a fan, I read a few of these articles.  But only a few, I’m a modest fan after all.  I couldn’t help noticing though, that in the swirl of praises and complaints, no one touched on the one issue that bothered me.

Towards the end of the movie, on the night after Katniss wins the Hunger Games, she looks (and seems) happy and healthy and unaffected by the hell she just endured.  It was only a thirty second scene, but it was completely jarring.  And completely unbelievable.

This was actually the one point my sister and I agreed on as we debated the movie on the ride home (she didn’t care for it and she lovesthe books).  In the novel, Katniss was beat up, emaciated, and on the verge of collapse, both physically and mentally.  As readers, we saw the psychological war she was battling in the arena.  We were standing with her, reading her thoughts, as she fought on.  But it was only when the Games were over, in the descriptions of how the makeup artists are padding her dress and covering up the scars, that we realized the heavy physical toll this ordeal extracted on her.I read in some article that at its core, the Hunger Games is all about food; putting enough food on the table, hunting, bartering, worrying about where the next meal will come from and so on. But I don’t think that’s quite right.  At its core, the Hunger Games is about desperation and survival.  Every single action or choice Katniss makes throughout the story is driven by one of these two things.  Consequently, she doesn’t have much bandwidth left to worry about her physical state.  And the reader loses sight of how much collective damage Katniss is taking as she trying to survive the horror du jour.  So at the end, when you realize how closely Katniss’s appearance mirrors her state of mind, it’s a very powerful image.

On screen though, the only damage Katniss seems to have taken from the Hunger Games was a few out-of-place hairs and some bad memories.

I’m not saying that Jennifer Lawrence should have lost 50% of her body weight (I like her and wouldn’t wish that on anyone) but makeup artists are masters of illusion and there’s always CGI.  Yet, there was nothing.  Consequently, it was the only point in the movie that I thought lost the spirit of the books.

So I suppose the moral of this story is that if you’re ever stuck in a televised gladiator-style death match with a book and a movie, and you can only save one, go for the book.  It’ll have a more meaningful story.

The Voice in the Your Head

So I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. I offer no excuses, just stating the facts, though I do feel guilty that I ignored the little voice in my head that said “update you blog” for so long. Good thing it was persistent.

Though I’ve taken a break from writing posts, I have, in fact, still been writing. In the last couple of months I’ve been trying lots of different story telling methods, using narrative voices I’ve never used before. It’s been fun, but most of the stories have failed. Miserably too.

But since January I’ve had a goal. I got the idea from Gay Degani’s post– 100 rejections this year. I like this goal because it’s forcing me to sent out submissions and not care so much about the response. It suddenly makes both acceptances and rejections are beneficial, for one goal or another.

The realist in me knows that the final numbers at the end of the year will be about 50 rejections. But that will be double the amount of submissions I sent out last year, which is a victory in itself right?

Anyway here’s a little micro-story for your reading pleasure:

My books like to talk. Nonfiction gives facts and fiction uses them to create something more. The library grows richer with each conversation.