Lightspeed


And we’re back!

The quick excuse for my absence? Some seriously ugly nausea and exhaustion for the last four months has bumped this blog to a back burner, as much the rest of my life. But in nineteen more weeks John and I should have a baby girl. Everybody’s telling me the puking is worth it, and that I might even forget about it once Baby Josie’s here, so there you go. At least now I want to drink coffee again.

As if tax season and pregnancy weren’t enough, I’ve given myself nineteen weeks to get the first draft of the first Harvester book finished. I’m at 43k right now, so it’s not entirely unthinkable, although since I’ve yet to hit that momentum stride, most mornings it seems a lofty, ridiculous goal. But I am able to get up at 5 am these days, when I couldn’t a month ago, and I consider that a terrific step forward. I’m intending to use this blog as a check-in for wordcount and momentum, at least weekly, and hopefully that will help me get back in the swing of things. Plus, it’s a place to complain about the issues I’m having.

For example, blocking. That’s been on my mind a lot, given the mistakes I made with the three books before this. All were YA, so not only am I having to do a lot of revising as I actually go in order to keep this from being too Harry Potter, but there where there was previously (in the last books) a lot of waking up in the morning, getting from one place to another, going to sleep, etc…now there’s just me staring at the page, wanting to avoid that issue completely. Problem is, in a lot of places I just don’t know how, especially when Heloise’s City is every bit as much a character as her. So that might be an issue I grow with, or I let it be ugly and wrong as I write, and then go back and fix upon revisions – which is easier said than done.

In the meantime, some worthwhile links:

  • This Lev Grossman article, which vastly encouraged me. I have such strong opinions when it comes to books (and short stories, for that matter) and this was written so eloquently that I found a good deal of encouragement in it, both for the state of the market and the eternal why-do-people-like-the-shit-they-like question.

And because this is Valentine’s Day, some four-legged love.

Oh, I do have a blog.

In the last month (and in no particular order), I’ve had two coworkers quit, another replacement hired only to quit three days later, job responsibilities increase, my father get remarried, multiple people in my life diagnosed with ugly things like cancer, and more news that will eventually get shared, time permitting. It’s not been an easy nor pleasant November, but now its December, and I love the cold(er) weather and hope we get snow this afternoon. And that things eventually become sunny and lovely again, even in winter.

But the real reason for this update – some excellent fiction.

Chris Stabback, a fellow Clarionaut from this last year, published a story in Clarkesworld which is up today. Gave me chills when I first read it, and inspired me. Nothing is better than a story that inspires you to write one of your own.

Caitlyn R. Kiernan’s collection Two Worlds and In Between has as few remaining collections left on Amazon (I’d bought mine directly from Subterranean Press). This is hands down the best collection I’ve ever read – and considering that I own nearly as many anthologies as books, that’s a pretty lofty statement. And, it’s her early work. But it’s a must-have, in addition to being a stunning hardback book.

I’d also be amiss not to mention the Lightspeed Year One book, also available, which is also quite gorgeous, and full of excellent reads – both originals from Lightspeed and reprints from our first year. I’m very pleased with it, as it well represents all the work we’ve done there and the great words that have been shared!

More soon – happy holidays!

I’ve been trying to catch up on crits I either owe or have promised that have slipped by, because of my sudden lack of available time: I’ve begun to get up at 5am simply to get in an hour + on Harvester the novel. It’s not nearly as much time as I need, nor does it allow me to rewrite and revise the stories waiting for attention – 5 Clarion stories, plus 2 written previously that need editing before submission.

However, I’ve got 22k of the first Harvester book written, 40k of the second (as I’d initially planned those to be a single book), and the 3rd just revealed itself to me the other day. I’ve been wanting a new book for a long time now, and now, diving into it, despite the vast overwhelmingness of the project and my fear of another novel (and trilogy) and all the what-if-this-doesn’t-succeed-again fears, I’m happy to have it, and even happy to get up an hour early for it.

I still need to find the right music for it, too, to listen to while writing. None of my previous soundtracks work, nor does anything new. I need a science fantasy soundtrack, since that’s what this book is. Alternate reality, where serious dark magic exists, as does alchemy that cures cancer.

The real reason for this post is what Elizabeth Bear called “the reader backpack,” which she brought up one day at Clarion and I’m guessing no one in my class has forgotten yet. I consistently see this as in issue in Lightspeed slush – even with some of the really, really impressive stories that we don’t end up taking for whatever reason. And I just read a story from a talented fellow in my writing group that had the same issue, so I thought I would ramble on about it a bit.

So, Bear’s concept in my words: every story comes along with a backpack that the reader puts on when they read. A nice, empty backpack. First line, (with new characters/setting/conflict) a rock gets added. Next unusual revelation/question asked, a second rock. Now here’s where things either get better or worse. The author can lighten the backpack by removing rocks (answer questions), or make it worse by adding – which happens too often. Give the reader a rock with every question introduced, and they’re so bogged down without answers that they’ll stop reading because they cannot stagger down the path of the story any longer.

Bear’s suggestion was 1st question/rock, 2nd question/rock, then answer 1st. Hand out 3rd question/rock, answer 2nd. Move along like that so the reader is constantly intrigued, but you’ve got to remove enough rocks that they won’t get annoyed and throw down the backpack altogether.

While I’m on the bandwagon…

I also see things that don’t work for the story. Too much going on, too many unusual structural choices (which in an of itself are awesome) alongside intense content and you’ve got an indecipherable blob of genius that no reader like me (I’m slow-witted when it comes to stories) can decipher. Every element in the story works to serve the greater purpose of the story, but if you’ve got too many elements doing the same thing, or doing too many things, your gorgeous tech-happy alien story has turned incomprehensible. (And I am so guilty of this, too.)

Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the balance.

Oh, and while I’m here – reading. I’m almost done with Embassytown by Mieville, of which I have mixed reactions. Just some absolutely brilliant things going on there, including his very thought-out alien race. But wow did it get sloggish in the middle; I put it down for almost 4 months, and only picked it back up again because I had bought the hardback and decided I need to at least try and finish it. I slogged through a few more chapters until holy shit the apocalypse and it FLOORED ME for 3 more chapters of breathless reading until I hit expositional apocalyptic summary, to which I’ve slowed up again, although I think its very important I watch what he does because of my own apocalyptic novel. So…yes. So many amazing things, but I prefer a book I inhale consistently.

Also finished Valente’s Deathless. Some absolutely stunning prose, and I found the first half of the book captivating in a way I rarely come across these days, (the Baba Yaga scenes are absolutely priceless). Because of that, truly a must-read. On the technical side, I like books that push forward, driving to the end (even in a subtle fashion), and this one doesn’t do that. While consistently gorgeous and evocative, the motivations dwindled in favor of consistent, evocative imagery, which wasn’t enough to keep me intrigued. As a result, the last third of the book was hard for me to finish as I wasn’t invested in the protag’s journey anymore (which was also my reaction to her Palimpsest). Despite that, I’m certain I’ll go back to this book one day; it’s simply too lovely and original not to.

And I will add again that this James Tiptree, Jr. collection is the most amazing thing I’ve read all year, still (with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Sirenia Digests‘ second). A must read for every SF reader/writer.

Happy Friday! A movie is in order this weekend, I think.

I’m catching up on my reading, and can check Joe Hill’s Horns off the list. A fascinating idea, and quite well written; a few parts made me feel a little ill, and I think I actually had nightmares from it one night. However, the more Ig transformed into the devil the less interesting the book was to me; the momentum seemed to peter out. But his relationship with Merrin was heartbreaking, as was what happened to her, and while I have more thoughts, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, as it’s indeed a book to read and buy.

Next to buy will be his short story collection, and Mira Grant’s Deadline. Oh, and Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique, both of which I believe come out next week? In the meantime, Valentine has a story up from her Tresaultiverse at Fantasy Magazine. Sometimes the way she phrases things reminds me of early Tanith Lee, which of course I love. But since those aren’t out yet, I’ve just received in the mail Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, and Jonathan Strahan’s Eclipse 4 and Engineering Infinity. The Lanagan comes first, although I still have collections by E. Bear and Karen Joy Fowler and the Grace Krilonovich waiting.

But the real reason for this post is Eric Gregory’s “The Harrowers,” which starts off Lightspeed‘s issue 12. Post-apocalyptia and zombie bears, with a gun-touting preacher man! Gregory is definitely a writer to keep an eye on.

And a bit randomly, I found 1k + words on Harvester the book last night, which was so exciting. I’m ready for more, but Heloise is jockying with a new little SF short that unwound itself over the weekend, so we’ll see who wins out.

With the title quote in mind, here are two things, no, three:

I finished Daryl Alexander’s Pandemonium, which was a delightful read. Thoroughly engrossing from the first page, intriguing, accessible, without an extra word anywhere, yet not sacrificing in lyricism. His first novel, too. I wasn’t very fond of the way things wrapped up – it felt completely different than the direction the first 3/4ths of the novel took – but I still recommend the book, very much so. It encouraged me, too, because it made Harvester the book so much more possible. I also realized that I try too hard in writing this book. I make too much effort, when really, I should let the action carry itself. It took a large weight off my shoulders when I realized that (for probably the umpteenth time, so hopefully I can remember it…), and I’m actually excited to get back to the book today.

Oh! And my interview with Elizabeth Bear is up on Lightspeed today! Go read. She’s a very interesting woman, and an excellent author. (I’m quite looking forward to her week at Clarion this summer.) Also, her tweets are most enjoyable.

And then to end on a downer, Kitty has been in the hospital for 4 days, although I’ll hopefully be able to pick him up later today. It’s kind of devastated me, not having him at home; even with the demanding and affectionate dogs, there’s a big gap without him. Buddy couldn’t care less that he’s gone, but I think Nellie know’s something’s up; she keeps roaming around, looking for him, and whining when she can’t find him.

But oh, there was a very adorable moment with the dogs. Actually, it lasted nearly thirty minutes, while we watched Game of Thrones on Sunday night:

Buddy was too comfortable to care that Nellie was sleeping on top of him; usually he grunts or growls and then gets up. And look how big Nellie is! She’s so unbelievably cute, and floppy.

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