Pimp My Friends


I’ve been thinking a lot lately on short story writing versus noveling, but I’ll save that for another day, perhaps when I’m done with this book.

Speaking of the book, Harvester/Alchemist/Heloise Book 1 reached 52k this week, although not because I added thousands of new words. While I did some, I also managed to rehab the outline even further, and work in some of the chapters I’d cut out from before, having thought them unusable. It sort of feels like cheating, but given that they fit now, I’m okay with that.

And now I’m very, very close to having no other “safety net” words, and only dozens of blank pages before me. That’s actually been the scary part of this week – dealing the crap my mind throws at me to intimidate me, specifically regarding the Julian chapters and the wrong turns I may potentially take (or have already taken and have yet to realize). What if I don’t even need his point of view? What if I cannot pull off a dual point of view? What if I can’t do the political thing and keep him occupied until he turns into crazy socialist dictator? Far too many what-ifs going on here … and that was this week.

In the chapters to be written/cleaned up this next week, the alloy is going to succeed, and both Heloise and Julian are going to start thinking much, much bigger. Or at least, Julian will, and conniving will become his middle name.

Other super exciting news – John sent Carl the Spider off to Apple! He should hear back in a few days and then it will be up on the App store.

Honestly, I still have a few levels to beat. I think I’ve made it through the Grasslands, the entire first level set, but some of the Winterlands levels are unrelenting. For this impatient player, the result is a lot of yelling and saying words that I probably shouldn’t type, and trying not to throw my phone every time I go too fast and impale Carl on an ice spike. Yet I keep trying, since the levels are just so neat.

I started reading Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City this week. Truthfully, the book has sat on my floor for two months given the hideous large print and how irritating I find it to read. But I pulled it out on Tuesday and within the first page, forgot about the size of the words. While I’m not usually much for noir and am mostly over present tense, neither of things mattered to me once I started reading, and I’m utterly floored at the color of the book. Not so much of Zoo City itself, but of Beukes’ fresh narrative and how she colors even the simplest of actions.

Clarion pal Brooke Bolander has a story up at Strange Horizons this month, one that caused quite a bit of discussion amidst our class; another unique tale well worth the read.

Work continues to be madness – but only seven more weeks of tax season left!

Oh, and this? SO EXCITED FOR IT.

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.

Title brought to you by one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs from the album The Fragile. I listened to this song on repeat after Mom died. Well, the whole album, really.

My little sister had her first kickboxing match on Saturday. I’m so proud of her, and holy shit does she have a strong right hook. Even if the other girl plays a little dirty about a minute into this first round. Way to go, Krista! (She’s in the pink and black shorts.)

Story idea of the day? Singularity. When it’s not explained. I’ve had that on the brain for a few weeks now after reading this very clever story that danced around the idea without tapping too much into the science of it, and I loved it. Maybe something will come of that in my own writing.

Story to read for the day? “Substitution,” by my terrific friend Brooke Wonders, possibly one of the most ridiculously brainy people I’ve ever met. (The ONLY thing I can possibly out-knowledge her in is short story markets and maybe classical music, if I’m lucky.) This gorgeous tale came out in Daily Science Fiction this month, and is mixed with equal parts lyricism, intelligence, and that uncomfortable emotive note at the end that left me still thinking about it two weeks after my first read. I cannot wait for the day when I can get my hands on Brooke’s first short story collection; the creepy and surreal resonance of her writing is exactly the sort of thing I look for.

I finally finished the beast of a revision of “North like a Star,” my first-week story at Clarion. Cleaned up the drama, but it still needs a good hack and slash, says my first non-Clarion reader, of which I agree. Too many conflicts have overtaken the main inciting incident, so if I can narrow out 3 or so of those and figure out a new reason for why Bellis gets to the factory, the problem might be solved. And, keep the draft under 5k – right now its pushing 6,500 words. The downside is that I despise the story (after two months of trying to get through this revision), so maybe if I put it away for awhile, some of that will take care of itself? Which means its time to pull out Harvester the novel (again – it seems to fluctuate) or write something new; I think I’ve burnt out my revision momentum for awhile.

What I’d really like is to write a flash. Something brief and sweet or sharp, and clever. A palette-wetting read. A palette-wetting write, so I’m up to tackle longer things again, instead if feeling burnt out.

Article of the day? I avoid politics on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can, simply because while I believe as strongly as the next person, there’s no way to convince anyone to change their point of view in a medium like that, especially when I grew up in a state like South Dakota and now live in Oklahoma – I am the minority amidst my peers in both states. But here’s a link to the article more than worth reading; not to pit one political party above another (which the author gets a little dramatic about – I think his point is made without needing to be so excessive?) but because of the truth in it, not the least being our troops are out of Iraq, health care reform has begun (I haven’t yet met one person opposing this who has been personally affected by it or lack of it – of which now John and I can relate), gay rights in the military, and a push to fix the economy, all done against opposition and hate, despite proclaiming to have the same religious beliefs (which honestly baffles me). Anyway, I found the article very encouraging, and lately, I’ve felt hopeful about the state of our country.

What I’d really like for Christmas is a Caribbean vacation. Instead, we’re staying home, and John’s family is coming over for mimosas and brunch. Then, we’ll likely join the rest of the city at the movie theater? We’ll see – happy Holidays to all!

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!

The beginning of the 4th week! I’ve meant to blog far more than this, but the weekdays are packed and the weekends have been spent recovering, either from the stress of the week or too much stress relief on Friday nights? Ah, yes. But here I am, more mentally tired than physical, and longing to sit in front of the television and turn my brain off just for an evening.  Or actually eat some different and amazing, food – I have never had such dreadful food in my entire life, and being only 7 months into the vegetarian thing, its somewhat distressing. (And I know I should not complain, but…yes.)

There are four ways (that I know of) to walk the fifteen minutes to class. Here is my favorite:

Walk to Class

I’ve also made it to the beach, which was simply gorgeous.

Sea

I miss John dreadfully, which in a way has helped me to work harder, just to keep from focusing on that. But then he sends me pictures like this:

This week marks the 4th story I’ve written (which makes me very happy – 2 more to go!), but I’ve warned my classmates it might veer more towards torture porn than they are likely comfortable with (myself included). Because I had hit a wall with inspiration after Bear week, I had figured I could write something Kiernan/Lee-esque (of course), since that’s what I enjoy so much. However, then the story veered into a social commentary on class with a main character who clearly has psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies. (And there goes the wider range of market possibilities!) But I have also tried to do this immersion thing within the wider scope of intrusion – as if the other elements weren’t enough of a challenge.

So that will be critiqued tomorrow (and turned in this afternoon, as soon as I find the courage to do so), with all my fingers crossed.

Also, here’s a summary of what I’ve learned so far…at least the things I’ve managed to scribble down. What I’ve actually learned is likely too broad to write down, but here is a taste (and the initials of the instructor it came from):

_____ is a story about ______ who must _____. We will know _____ has succeeded when ______. (EB)

Each character is an aspect of the same person (a common literary structure, insert inner curling shape, like the shell of a snail curling around its core). (EB)

What the character wants is in direct opposition to what the character needs. (EB)

Internal conflict is then driven into crisis, reinforced by external conflict. (EB)

Give antagonist try/fail cycle! (EB)

Only use exclamation points when: The! Galaxy! Is! On! Fire! (EB)

To keep a reader from getting ansty about not enough information: Set up first mystery, set up second mystery, answer first. Set up 3rd mystery, answer second, etc. (EB)

Right person right place wrong time? Wrong person right place right time? Right person wrong place right time? (NKH)

Option: The reader changes throughout the story rather then the main character! (NKH)

David Anthony Durham, our instructor this week, has already said some fantastic things regarding world-building, but I couldn’t find my pen quickly enough to write them down – hopefully that will change in the next few days.

Also, I have learned that reading about unicorns in stories doesn’t work for me, unless the unicorns are Diana Peterfreund’s, and/or have killer tendencies. Or, something else very creative that doesn’t result in Lisa Frank resemblances. Perhaps I just need to admit I’m on Team Zombie and that is that.

Also, in pimp-my-friends, The lovely Brooke Wonders reads for form and theme, and has been teaching me to do so, too – already I feel it’s improved my stories dramatically. Bonus, the equally as lovely Peta Freestone is teaching me how to grow citrus trees and what best I can buy and plant in our new house, upon the end of Clarion.

Tonight, David Anthony Durham’s Mysterious Galaxy reading. This weekend: SD Comic-Con

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