Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year (Eve Edition)

Firstly, I wish you all a very happy new year. Thank you for following my crazy adventures and I hope 2012 brings us all good health, good times, and good news.

Some years I write a wrap-up post. I go through month by month and sum up everything, but this year I will share my 2011 experiences in a general way. (And with lots of namedropping of authors I was too shy to approach)

Back in January, I shot a corporate event. I invested in a portrait lighting kit and learned how to use it. The whole experience set a great tone for the year.

I attended three classes at Bellevue College lasting at least six weeks each. I feel especially privileged to have had the opportunity to attend a class taught by Cat Rambo. Cat has taught me (and continues to teach me by example) so much about what it means to be a professional writer, and I can't thank her enough for that.

Check out Cat's excellent book of short stories on Kindle: Eyes Like Sky And Coal And Moonlight

I attended four one-day workshops over the course of the year, two of them offered through Clarion West. I attended nearly 20 readings, beginning with John Scalzi and most recently Timid Pirate authors at the Wayward Coffeehouse, where I also took pictures.

Other readings I attended include: George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Paul Park, Nancy Kress, L. Timmel Duchamp, Margo Lanagan, Minister Faust, Charles Stross, and C.S. Friedman. At World Fantasy I also saw/heard readings by Parke Godwin, Connie Willis, Genevieve Valentine, Cat Rambo, Keffy Kehrli, and Tim Pratt.

It's not possible to do my 2011 reading list justice by sharing everything here. (Though here's a list of book recommendations my friends and readers helped me compile in August.) I read so many incredible things and met so many talented authors, I would forget someone or something and the picture would be incomplete, so I'm not even going to try and recite it. Let's just say I discovered Margo Lanagan's fantastic short stories, how much I love Dan Simmons' Song of Kali, and how much I enjoy reading on the Kindle.

I went to my first conferences and conventions: Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Foolscap, Steamcon, and World Fantasy Con.

I sold my first horror short story to an anthology.

I learned about steampunk, and then I wrote a vaguely steampunk story.

In May, we lost our cat, Vash, to lymphoma of the kidneys. I miss him, but I am glad for our new cat Niviane and of course, Chiana.

I joined writing groups galore (Writers Cramp, Write Stupid, Wayward Writers, and Cloud City Wordslingers) and met scores of smart, talented local authors. (I apologize for not listing all of you individually, even though you deserve it. If I know your blog it is in my sidebar.)

To sum up 2011: I wrote a lot, I sat in the same room as a bunch of authors I admire and listened to them read, I took classes and workshops, joined groups, attended conferences, and read in the dark so often I probably undid my LASIK.

I've been thinking about what's in store for 2012 and the short answer is: more of the same. Only more so.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December Submissions Update

Now that we're in the last days of the last month of the year, it's time to ask the question: Did I see 2011 out with a bang or a whimper?

Acceptances for 12/11: 1 (Eau de Public Transit podcast to Every Day Fiction)

Rejections for 12/11: 2

Submissions for 12/11: 3

Pending subs, carried over from November: 5

Overall 2011 Statistics: For the last seven-ish months I've been tracking, I've written 21 stories and received 5 acceptances, 26 rejections, and have 7 stories out for submission (1 of those 7 is a play). Many of the 21 stories I wrote have been trunked, however I may revisit them. I also wrote 50,000 words in November, but that doesn't show up on any lists yet.

Not a bad year for a first-time fiction writer. I'm certainly happy with it. In 2012, my goal will be to sell a story to a professional market.

2012 Plans = Made

Okay. Let's do this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Draft Two: Finished

The horror story I've spent the last month wrangling is finished. I may or may not get some feedback on it still, but the hardest part is done: the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. My first reader -- that (patient and long-suffering) guy I married -- has given me feedback, which I've incorporated. And I've read through the whole thing a dozen more times to fix a few typos and inconsistencies.

I'm sure there are more nit-picks left to fix. I've been staring at the damn thing so long the lines blur together. Tomorrow I'll read it aloud again and then let it sit. With hope, none of the beta readers will bring up major plot problems, but I'll deal with those as they come.

The final count was 7,800 words, which is 42 pages double-spaced in 12 point Courier font. The process for this story was weird. I had the idea mid-November and set it aside because I was working on NaNoWriMo, though I did manage to write the first 1,000 words in between projects. I started writing the story for real about the second week of December, although some days I could only eke out 150 words max.

But here I am and I have finished. Just in time for the new year.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Draft One

Good evening. I hope you all had or are having an excellent holiday.

I just finished a first draft of my Victorian horror story. It stands at over 7,100 words, which means I should revise with an eye for cutting. (It is also the longest complete story I've ever written.) I have no idea how it got so long. I just kept writing what happened next and before I knew it I had 38 double-spaced pages.

By this evening I had hoped to complete a draft for review, but it's not ready for readers. There are still some rough passages and at least one foreshadowing bit I need to add.

Better to sleep on it or I'll just make mistakes. As it is my brain feels fried.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I sort of celebrate Christmas. Our presents are stacked on the pub table, still in their beige Amazon boxes. We didn't bother with a tree mostly because I didn't feel like doing all the work. And I'm drinking my favorite German beer in honor of Christmas Eve: Marzen, Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer. It tastes like smokey goodness.

Jer's disappeared upstairs to play video games, so I'm here with the internet, a sleeping cat, and an untapped capacity for evil.

Er. Holiday spirit.

I submitted a story today. I wrote the first draft in September and since then I've added another 500 words and reworked it considerably. It was one of those stories where my first readers gave me feedback like: Yeah, but what's the point? Okay. So now there's a point; I aim to please. I'll find out in a month if my attempt at pleasure paid off.

My horror story continues to be a monster in itself. The first draft is now at 5,600 words, which is about 30 double-spaced pages. At least I think the end is in sight now, or it better be. But not until it's finished can I attack it with a scalpel and a sander, as is fitting. Buzz whir boom click.

So if you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a good one. If you celebrate another holiday, I wish you equal amounts of cheer and near beer and/or jolly fun times.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There are worse mannequins to be

I took my show on the road tonight, grabbed my laptop and found a quiet table at a nearby coffeehouse, which is where I report to you from now. The weatherman says we'll have freezing fog tonight. I think I'll be done playing with MS Word before the worst of it hits.

I, of course, assume "freezing fog" involves turning people inside out. Or into mannequins. Imagine a virtual army of Kim Cattralls circa 1987.

Jer is on vacation this week so my schedule is all higgledy-piggledy. We've even been a little productive, despite our best efforts, although I admit to playing many hours of "House of the Dead: Overkill."

Yesterday we saw Hugo 3D at Cinebarre. While I was in the moment, I enjoyed the movie. The settings are fantastic in 3D. Bits of it moved me to tears. But after it was over I started thinking about all of the structural problems with the plot. My primary problems (without spoilering) is that coincidence is responsible for pretty much everything. And flashbacks are relied on too heavily.

I think it's worth seeing though. I definitely enjoyed it more before my inner editor jumped in and started picking it apart. If you're lucky you don't have one of those beasts taking up space in your skull. Mine grows bigger all the time.

I just counted and somehow I only have three stories out for submission. This makes me antsy, so I better get back to my horror story.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My podcast is up!

My podcast is up! Only five minutes long! Check out my dramatic reading of my first published horror story, "Eau de Public Transit." The length is about five minutes and you can play the reading through your browser.

Since this is my first time doing anything like this, it'd be great if you could vote on the page as well. 1 star is the worst, 5 is the best.

Here's the link:

Thank you for listening!

Did I mention it's only five minutes?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Timid Pirate Publishing at the Wayward Coffeehouse

Books for sale

Last night I took photographs at the Wayward Coffeehouse in Ravenna (65th and Roosevelt, Seattle, WA) for Timid Pirate Publishing's reading/book launch event. I had a fantastic time listening to all of the stories and drinking tasty coffee.

In addition to the three pics in this post, the full set of pictures are available for browsing and buying here:

Jeremy Zimmerman reads his story

A great turn-out

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Dreaded Urgent Errand Beast Rears Its Ugly Head

Updating the blog helps me keep the days straight in my head, so without getting too personal, here we go...

I've been reading about people's health scares and thinking it was time to find a local doctor. So, long story short, I met my new doctor today. Fun times. (See? Not so bad.) The most interesting part was when the doctor let her dog into the examination room.

I wrapped presents for my nieces and took them to the post office, where I learned something new. If you recycle a USPS brand flat rate box and wrap it in brown paper so it's impossible to tell what kind of box it is, they still charge you as if it's a flat rate box, which for me made the shipping more expensive by $2.55 versus a normal box. Weird, huh?

If you want the Cliff's Notes on my point, here it is: the post office penalizes you for reusing boxes.

I took a detour to Grocery Store Outlet, where they have the best frozen dinners (Amy's for cheap!) and deals on fancy wine.

Picked up a few things at Walgreens and thought my head was going to explode from all the noise. (I do not expect sympathy.)

And other stuff. It's almost 5pm and I've written nothing, but tonight I've blocked off time for my horror story and I think I know the next scene.

December has basically been me playing catchup for ignoring all of my obligations in November to write a novel that isn't a novel. But now that my car is working (knock on wood), I have a doctor, most of the presents are shipped, and we have fancy discount wine, maybe the voices in my head will let me write again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stuck in the middle with two ... short stories

We're halfway through the month, a couple of weeks out from NaNoWriMo. So what's shaking bacon?

Not much. I've been bouncing between two short stories. The sci-fi one I stopped writing at 2300 words because the characters weren't working for me. The main character wasn't personally invested in the action, and since I'm not writing "The Great Gatsby" I need to rethink the POV. I don't want to kill the story because I love the setting. So it's time for a rewrite.

The other short story is at 2400 words. It's a dark one. I've been writing the story off and on for the last month. I'm handling this one like "British Guiana." I don't want to take it too seriously, even though it's one of the creepiest things I've ever created.

I'm learning about my process as I work on these two stories. I started the sci-fi story with a setting in mind. The horror story started with characters. I'm discovering I have a much easier time when I start with a character. The setting suggests a certain kind of character, but the possibilities seem to be endless and I just keep asking myself: Yes, but what do you want to say?

That's me. Making stuff harder than it needs to be since the day I was born.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Presenting clean wine glasses and a new podcast

Chiana says yo

Been a slow day. A guy came out to inspect our heater in the afternoon, which meant I had to make the place presentable in the morning. It's so easy to degenerate into kibble around here.

So I vacuumed and pushed papers into piles and washed the wine glasses. Then I went outside and trimmed a shrubbery that was too close to the heat pump. (I was supposed to do that months ago.) Later I sent out some story feedback and here I am, finally ready to write something.

So of course I blog instead.

Other stuff I need to do: laundry, wrap some presents, and go to the post office. Writing should be in there, too.

Oh! I have some sharable good news. My horror story, "Eau de Public Transit," will be posted as a podcast at Every Day Fiction next Monday, 12/19. I'm reading the story I wrote, which is extra cool, so if you've ever wondered what I sound like when I enunciate this will be a great opportunity to find out. I'm especially proud of the second half of the podcast, where I start acting and stuff. Making strong use of that degree in Dramatic Arts, don't ya know.

I'll let you know when it's live.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lowering the bar

I'm having one of those days where everything I write is crap. Probably a result of reading too many how-to-write books lately. They're useful but make me start saying things like "Do I have a theme? What's my theme? Show me the theme!"

Then I throw my hands in the air all melodramatic-like, shout something about being a hack, and turn on the television.

So far there hasn't been much television. I've been bouncing back and forth between two short stories. One was almost finished before I decided I had wasted the cool setting on a trivial idea. The other I'm afraid I'll break. So I write a few sentences at a time, hoping I'll distract myself long enough to finish something and push past this slump. And then yell at myself for being such a baby.

Anyway. This is the ugly side of my day. I'm not looking for sympathy and it's kind of funny when you think about it. Even when I don't have any real, tangible problems to bemoan, my brain is more than happy to invent something stupid.

I need to find that place outside of myself where I can be objective again. Because right now I can't see the story for the words.

Friday, December 09, 2011

"I grow [c]old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled"

The thermometer says it's 29 degrees outside. Our lawn is topped with frost. The neighbor's roof is covered by a thin layer of white. The air appears soupy-gray, like a cloud has settled over the neighborhood and cloaked us in its vapor.

This morning I am thankful for my heater. I have lived in many crummy apartments over the years that only had one main vertical vent, usually in the hallway. I would grab a beach chair, a blanket, and my books and camp out in front of the vent for hours at a time. Sometimes a heavy jacket or a knit cap would complete my ensemble. I read slowly, because each time I had to turn the page I'd need to free my hands from my blanket cocoon and expose them to the chill.

Of course the chill was nothing like you'd experience in any part of the world with actual weather--where snow piles up and there's a real risk body parts will turn blue and fall off--but it was cold enough for me.

I watched a few Scrivener video tutorials last night in my quest to ease into the new novel writing software. I found them useful, although I realize now I watched videos for the previous version but it should be fine. I think Scrivener will be a huge asset once I'm up and running.

Yesterday I made a dent in the feedback I owe people, but I have more to do. I would also like to make more progress on my short story, and get my novel into Scrivener. Sounds like a solid Friday plan. Ready set ... oh wait, coffee.

Coffee first. Then the wor[l]d.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Recording my first podcast

Yesterday wasn't too bad as far as days go. I received a compliment about my work that meant a lot to me, I received confirmation I'll be attending the Norwescon Fairwood Writers Workshop, I received confirmation my application was received for a thing, and I recorded my first mp3 podcast and submitted it to a place for posting. If it gets accepted, I'll let you know. I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

For the podcast, I used an open source program called Audacity. It has a lot of neat bells and whistles I don't know how to use yet, but you can also just hit the record button (or keyboard shortcut, 'r'), talk for a while, and then export as mp3, which is what I did.

I played the mp3 for Jer and he didn't recognize my voice. I choose to believe that was because I sounded so awesome and dramatic. :)

The short story I'm writing is at around 1,200 words, which isn't that many more words than yesterday, but I'm finally starting to get a feel for the world and the characters and I think the pace will pick up now. Still shooting for 3,000-4,000 words.

I just realized I owe oodles of feedback on other people's stories. I will need to dig into that soon. But first, laundry!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Car Repair Achievement Unlocked

As a NaNoWriMo winner, I was so excited to receive a 50% discount for purchasing Scrivener, the novel writing software I mentioned in my last post. I've since installed the software and I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful relationship.

In other news I walked the mile (a brisk overcast 36 degree walk) to pick up my car and we're reunited at last. It has a new alternator, wiper blades, spark plugs, wires for the spark plugs, and some oil thingie that was previously leaking.

Of course, it doesn't feel any different. When I dropped off the car the battery light was on. Now the battery light is off, my credit card is weeping, my radio stations are gone, and I am left with a multi-page receipt. I am sure it was worth it though.

My car is my freedom. Give me a minute and I will write some sort of anthem about it. Involving convenience and carpooling and rest stops. Possibly drive-in burger restaurants and theaters, and going places mass transit dare not go. Like really steep hills.

In writing news I'm still chugging away on my newest short story. It's about 900 words so far. I'm guessing it'll finish around 3,000.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Six percent charge

This has been a crazy expensive week. The good news is we got my car into the shop before the battery drained completely. The bad news is it was down to a 6% charge.

Hello, new alternator.

I shouldn't complain. For a 13 year old car, it's had amazingly few issues. (Knock on wood.)

My mood has been low these past few days. Sometimes I get like this when I let organizational stuff build up, so I spent the morning sorting mail, doing the dishes, taking out the recyclables, watering the plants, making a first pass on Christmas shopping. And you know, I do feel better. Life is less chaotic than it was a few hours ago and I feel the difference already.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sunny Sunday Versus the Blank Page

Jer is upstairs playing World of Warcraft and I'm sitting at the kitchen table thinking about writing. It's important to think before you begin, to ease yourself into the words, otherwise you might cramp and drown.


The sky is blue and the sun is shining and it is 36 degrees outside--according to what I can see out the window and a nearby thermometer. Perfect corn maze weather, except I think they're all closed for the season by now. Last year it was either snowing or had just finished snowing. I prefer rain.

Since NaNoWriMo ended I haven't written much. I've read a lot of short stories and a couple of non-fiction books, and I wrote an essay, which I submitted to a thing. I went to my last day of novel writing class. It was fun and I was sorry to see it end.

As NaNoWriMo winners, there's a rumor we'll be eligible for a Scrivener discount starting December 5. If you haven't heard of Scrivener, it's software designed to help you write and organize your novel. It comes with tools to help you outline, post virtual index cards to a "corkboard," maintain different versions, and export your work into standard manuscript format. You can buy Scrivener for Mac and Windows now--the full Windows version has just recently become available.

So I'm excited for tomorrow.

I've been looking for patterns in what helps get the words flowing. A certain time of day? A location? Basically the only thing that seems to work is being stubborn. I'm a creature of procrastination. If I manage to outlast myself then I can usually get the work done.

Thanks, brain. This insight was not helpful at all.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dialing down the Folly

I spent all morning writing and rewriting a biographical essay (for this thing, no big deal, what?) and at noon I sent it off to Jer with the note: tell me if I sound too cocky or crazy or both.

By comparison, my college essay, which is the last essay I took this seriously started with the line, "Hubris is going to be my downfall."

I cringe every time I remember, but you know, it got me into college so...

After spending all that time working on something that isn't even fiction, I posted the following on Twitter:

Someone wrote that being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life. I disagree in that I never worked so hard at homework.

Apparently that struck a chord because it's been retweeted like 12 times, and I find that so incredibly cool.

We're in December now which means it is my friend Gina's birthday. So before I go: Happy Birthday to my friend, my former roommate and ex-co-worker, Miss Gina!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Finishing NaNoWriMo brings unexpected melancholy

I submitted my work-in-progress to the NaNoWriMo validator and I'm proud to share I passed. The award proves it.

A couple things about this award make me melancholy however. One is that it's over. The community aspects have been very motivating. Another is that I'm not actually finished. I didn't end the month with a novel. I ended it with scraps of scenes and a lot of nonsense. It's like a Frankenstein monster is hiding in all those pages. And I'm afraid to go in unarmed.

While it's still fresh, let me tell you about my process. I started by expanding a short story I wrote a few months ago. I put together a basic outline in October and started fresh on November 1. I followed the trail of that story for most of November, without ever really understanding the characters. But not for lack of trying. I engaged in the writerly equivalent of improv. I threw characters into loosely linked and dire situations with one thought only: maybe I can salvage something. I manufactured some really weird situations, by the way. Some of them stuck.

I flailed a lot this month. I daydreamed. I got drunk. I wrote some terrible sentences such as last night's "A round flat robot in the shape of a triangle..." I met cool people, and I successfully shut off my inner editor for whole minutes at a time.

The real success of November was in my ability to produce consistently. (I wrote as much in my last post and I still believe it.) I saw results due to keeping up with my milestones. And maybe I feel melancholy for the same reasons Weight Watchers made me feel melancholy. I realized that I will never be done, not even on an arbitrary last day of the month. By subscribing to this program, I've just created a lifestyle that will dictate all the rest of my days.


Enough of that. I'm off to draft a plan to bring Frankenstein to his bruised and borrowed knees.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home stretch of 50,000 words

I'm in the home stretch of NaNoWriMo and should be done writing my 50,000 words on Wednesday. My progress has been consistent. I've only skipped a day or two in the month, and then gotten back to speed fairly quickly.

This is the most fiction I've ever written in 30 days, so in that regard NaNoWriMo has been a success. But it wasn't until yesterday I began to see another direction the plot could go, a better direction. Did I need to write 46,700 words before that option made itself available? Or did I just need to sit back and brainstorm a couple of days first?

I will have failed NaNoWriMo in the sense that I end the month with a completed novel. Sure, I can (and will) tack on a cheesy ending, but that doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the thing. However it is always good practice to produce. I've proved to myself I can write 2,000 words at a time, even when those words are very bad. And with time, perhaps the percentage of bad words will dwindle and I will be left with a much stronger result.

Crawl before you walk, and all that.

In addition, I've managed to submit five stories this month and receive five rejections, so with previous subs I have a total of seven out now.

I'm thrilled with those numbers.

This month, while writing 50,000 words, I have also rewritten two short stories and made progress on a brand new one. So overall the month has been a success.

An interesting psychological side effect is I don't feel like I've accomplished anything, which is partly why I keep posting my progress here. Having not completed a new work this month, I feel incredibly slothful, and I need to remind myself that's not true. Heck, submitting five stories in a month is one of my all-time best numbers. I guess I just need to reexamine my perspective on success.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A great deal on high-quality sci-fi/fantasy/horror

Over at Facebook I mentioned a sale you should know about at Small Beer Press. I particularly like this sale because all of their ebooks are 50% off, and everything else on the site is 25% off through November 30.

I get nothing for mentioning this sale, by the way, although maybe I *should* apply to be one of their affiliates since I keep bringing it up on every social network. :)

It's not the easiest site to navigate, so if you're interested click here to go straight to the 50% off section. You will need to enter the coupon code at checkout.

Yesterday I picked up ebooks by Howard Waldrop, Ted Chiang, Kelley Eskridge, Holly Black, Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Wilhelm, and Kathe Koja for $30. Today I went back and purchased annual e-subscriptions to a number of high-quality magazines for 25% off, including Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Fantasy, and Lightspeed.

The discount makes it a really good time to subscribe.

If you haven't figured me out by now, my biggest temptation is, and always has been, books. (Camera equipment is a distant second compared to books.) My shoes are scuffed, my socks have holes, my jacket doesn't zip all the way, my car is 13 years old, and I barely remember to buy groceries... but books? Yes, please. More, please. My eyes are hungry.

And that's the news today.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November Status

With five days left in the month, this is slightly premature, but I forgive myself. Here are my November numbers for writing submissions.

Submissions: 4

Rejections: 5

Acceptance: 1 for "British Guiana, 1853," in Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, coming spring 2012

Pending Submissions (carried over): 3

Summary: As of 11/25/11, I have a total of 6 active submissions in the wild. In the last six months (although two items have been tracked since February) I've received a total of 4 acceptances and 23 rejections covering 19 stories. Eleven of the 19 I've stopped submitting, at least for now. (So the 19 breaks down into: 11 trunked, 4 accepted, 4 pending -- plus 2 others pending that were accepted previously and I don't want to count twice)

When I list it out like this I don't feel so damn lazy. It's actually pretty encouraging. I don't know how much longer I'll keep sharing my numbers, but I thought it might be interesting to other writers out there who are going through the same slog.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of year when my fellow countrymen and countrywomen gather 'round and share our reasons for being thankful. I would like to join in this celebration, but I am afraid there are too many things and it would take too much of your time.

So instead I will share two things I am thankful for in particular: all of the nouns and all of the verbs in my life. Special runner-up: adverbs.

I don't have any solid plans for Black Friday. I've been thinking of buying an electric blanket and a jacket that zips all the way (my zipper broke last year.) Other than that, I don't need anything enough to leave the house. Maybe some TV dinners? Wool socks? Shampoo?

I suspect I'm not thinking big enough. I self-limit like that.

In all seriousness though, thank you, all of you, for reading. I appreciate the time we spend together and hope you have a laugh-filled holiday full of festivity, food, fluid, and fun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Writing a Novel

The best word to describe my NaNoWriMo approach is: stumbling. Or maybe bumbling. Or fumbling. Something 'bling. At the end of this month I will have written 50,000 words, but they won't be the right words in the right order.

I am sitting here debating whether or not I should go to a coffee shop for a change of scene. In reality I've already made up my mind. I'm brewing a pot of coffee in the kitchen behind me, but it won't seem real until it's poured and in my hands. Despite the inevitability of coffee, I like to think I still have free will.

Truthfully I don't write well in public. I always think I will, but when I get there I am usually too busy watching everyone else or wondering if the staff resents my loitering at one of their tables. Going to weekly sanctioned write-ins has been the only way I can put aside my guilty conscience and write in public.

Yesterday was a loss and I am behind a day. So far this morning I have broken off the narrative again to think through some plot problems. Every time I do this I learn a little more about what my villain wants and what makes him a villain. It's still fuzzy, but it's coalescing.

I am also eyeing the number of stories I currently have out with some trepidation. There are not enough, I think, I should be writing short stories not wasting time on word vomit! And then I think, where's the profit in that? Short stories are fun, but I want to learn how to write a novel. What better time to start than NaNoWriMo? I figure my first three novels will be good efforts but not particularly useful and by novel four I will at least have the confidence to tell the story the way it needs to be told, whatever that means. Sounds good in my head, at least.

I spent some of this weekend searching the web for articles about how novel writing is different than short story writing. Mostly the consensus seems to be, the forms are obviously different. Short stories focus on one idea or change, usually with brevity. Novels have room to develop a central idea or theme around a progression of events leading to an inevitable climax. To me this means transitions will be very important in a novel, as well as causality. I'm not sure how that translates into actual work yet, but it's given me a lot to think about.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Panic for nothing, NaNo marches on

I either slept through the snow or it passed us by. The thermometer says it's 36 degrees and I see no lingering signs of moisture, so I guess we'll just chalk this one up to: We needed to buy groceries anyway.

Today is Jer's last day of vacation. I expect we won't be doing anything crazy. I have more words to write and he has more games to play. Sometime later we'll meet up to watch TV and discuss our various past-times. Perhaps share some of our groceries. It's nice having him here.

I'm treating my NaNoWriMo novel kind of unconventionally. Today I should be hitting 30,000 words, but I'll admit not all of them are story. Lately I've been needing to break off the narrative to figure out some plot problems and that mainly involves me talking to myself. I have these cool flashes of scenes in my head, but I'm not sure how they all hook together yet. I know my main character and I know her friend, but the villain has been a mystery. I'm not sure if I should have two POVs or one, so I'm playing with the villain's voice now. Since I don't exactly know the story I want to tell, I'm having a hard time figuring out how to tell it.

It's weird to be confident in a story when I don't even know what it is yet. I just know there's something there. I just have to be smart enough to see it.

Oh, and I don't understand how to write a compelling sub-plot yet. I should get on that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fingerpainting in the dark

There was a rumor it might snow tomorrow, but then I just heard on the radio that possibility is diminishing all the time. Still, it's about 39 degrees outside -- insert disclaimer about me being a total weather wuss -- and I've decided it's time to stock up on groceries.

We went from empty to stocked freezer in the last 24 hours, through a combination of Grocery Store Outlet (great frozen dinners cheap), grocery delivery from Safeway, and a quick trip to the QFC to buy bread (Safeway was out of my favorite bread.)

I've only recently started shopping at Grocery Store Outlet and I've been surprised at the quality of items they carry. I bought a bunch of Amy's organic frozen dinners for about half-off, several bags of Kettle chips cheap, and a few bottles of Italian wine that looks amazing. Some real treasures there.

It's a nice change from some of the other price surprises I've had recently. For example, since when does a 12 pack of soda cost over $7? Seriously? I guess it's time to wean myself off the stuff anyway. The pre-sliced Lucerne pepperjack was also over $7, or you could buy a brick for $5. I bought the brick. As it happens, I own a knife.

When I'm not complaining about inflation, I'm adding to my NaNoWriMo word count. I don't have much confidence in the novel, but then I never do at this stage in figuring out the story. For now I'll just keep the critical part of my brain distracted with caffeine and booze and sleep, and let the creative part keep fingerpainting in the dark.

I've devoted today to getting to know my villain. Trying to get to know his background and motivations. I gave him a name and a wee bit of backstory. Still need to flesh him out more. Tonight I'll be writing out with some writer friends. Pounding out the last 1000 words of my daily quota. I hope to learn more then.

What else? Life is nice and boring right now. I fell asleep on the couch watching Brian Greene on Nova telling me about quantum entanglement. We watched the recent BBC version of Sherlock and loved it.

I just wish I could get a better handle on what this darn story wants to be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy News

I'm very excited to announce I sold my horror story British Guiana, 1853 to a new anthology, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, due out in spring 2012.

All 25 stories are around the theme of "dark tales of Horror, Speculative Fiction, and to a lesser degree Science Fiction, relating to civilizations that are lost, or have been forgotten, or have been rediscovered, or perhaps merely spoken about in great and fearful whispers."

Here's the full announcement:

It's especially exciting because I'll be sharing the table of contents with another member of my sci-fi/fantasy writing group, Andrew Williams, as well as an author whose name many of you will be familiar with: Joe R. Lansdale. Mr. Lansdale has won a great many awards and written many great works, including the novella that the movie Bubba Ho-Tep (starring Bruce Campbell) was based on. It's really an honor to be included in the same book as him. (Not that that implies anything by association, not really. Still excited though.)

I'm looking forward to reading the other 24 stories in the anthology. Competition must have been fierce since I am aware of the quality of some of the other stories that didn't make it. I feel very honored to have been selected.

I'll keep you updated on the release info. There may even be an opportunity to hear me read this story at an event. Fingers crossed!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A good rain

It's raining here. A good rain. Often in Seattle you get a weak mist, more like a gentle sky spritz, and they call it rain, but right now there is heft to the water falling. There is angle and a satisfying splat on the wooden slats of my deck. It makes the air shimmer, and up close the big fat drops collect on the patio railing, gather, and drip-drop-splash like a skydiver with a load of bricks strapped to his back and no parachute.

I'm writing. I'm washing linens. Thanks to modern technology these things are not mutually exclusive. I am glad for living in a world where I can push a button and let domesticity run its course. Let a robot scrub my sheets. Let the coffeemaker brew my breakfast. Let the computer count my words and tsk-tsk-tsk me with a line graph when I fail to reach a target.

Awhile ago, a kitten curled up in my lap. She is warm and mewls if I try to move her. So now I have to choose between moving the sheets to the dryer or living this moment, with a black ball of fluff on my legs, the gentle hum of the heater serenade, the trees swaying in the wind, the rain-soaked yard deepening the contrast with greener greens and browner browns, and the soupy stew of a wool gray sky.

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My first NaNoWriMo write-in

I went to my first NaNoWriMo write-in last night -- even though I think it was technically unofficial it still counts. The event was organized by torreybird, and held at the new Ravenna location of the Wayward Coffeehouse. I ordered the Melbourne sandwich and coffee and really enjoyed both. The sandwich consisted of a warmed ciabatta roll, avocado spread, tomato, lettuce, and melted cheese (I chose and loved the Pepperjack, some people prefer Swiss). Very tasty.

Torrey was very efficient and motivating and offered us prizes for writing sprint completions. I came away with several charms that I positioned in the shape of a creepy frog head with arms, acorns, and a badge. Here is a blurry picture of my loot:

Overall it was a fun evening. I added about 1,000 words to my story. Not all of them useful, but hey words, and met a lot of cool, like-minded folks.

We'll be meeting every Tuesday in November at the Wayward from 6-9pm. Head on over if you want some company.

Monday, November 07, 2011

My classroom-y weekend

The weekend was for learning. Saturday morning I went to my novel writing class at Bellevue College and on Sunday I went to an all-day workshop taught by the inestimable Nancy Kress. (Check out her how-to write book, Beginnings, Middles & Ends. I can't recommend this book enough.)

I hope I didn't come across as too much of a fan girl, it's just that Beginnings, Middles, & Ends was one of the first writing books I ever read that gave me tangible advice on craft and I loved it. The Natalie Goldbergs, Anne Lamotts, and Julia Camerons are all well and good, but I wanted a bit more substance and I found it in the Elements of Fiction Writing series. I was just so grateful for the opportunity to be in a Nancy Kress workshop and receive personalized feedback on my scene. She's an incredible teacher and if you ever have the chance to attend one of her workshops or classes, I urge you to do so.

Okay, I also couldn't resist asking her to sign my copy of Steal Across the Sky while I was there. She was very gracious about my excitement and I appreciate that.

Have I gushed enough yet? Don't want to scare you away. I promise my normal cynical self will resume shortly.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mini-writing update

I'm up to two rejections for the first week of November, but it's cool. They were both for contests I considered longshots anyway. There are a couple of other places I'm waiting to hear back from and those I'm more interested in.

I think I'm up to 20-something rejections since June. (Am I supposed to tell you about this part? Will it make you think less of me as a writer?) And three acceptances. All things considered, I feel great about those numbers. Three publications in six months? Yes, sir, I'll take it!

My goal for next year is to break into a pro market.

I'm on track with NaNoWriMo, churning out words and stuff and junk. I'm taking a break to critique stories for a class on writing first scenes that happens tomorrow, but I wrote ahead so NaNo is good and set, too.

I can't believe it's been a year since I gave my notice at my job. What a crazy, wonderful, bizarre ride. I know it won't last forever, but I'll enjoy the hell out of it as long as it does.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Knee-deep in nonsense

Since we last shared internet private time, I've learned my cat is a freak for chicken noodle soup. Yet another factoid school failed to teach me.

I'm kidding, teachers. You do good work.

I've written about half the words I plan to write today, so you are finding me mid-workday. (Ready for a nap! But not napping!) I'll be trying something new and leaving the house this evening to write around other people. Generally I am not good at this. (I suffer from severe chattiness) So to distract myself from All The People Around I Could Talk To, I will bring my iPod of Productivity.

It helps me focus if I assign random labels to everything. It lends my surroundings an air of pseudo-importance.

You should know there is a squirrel on the fence outside my window. He has a fluffy tail. I took a picture with my mind but we are not yet advanced enough for me to share it with you. I am sorry for this.

Clearly I am knee-deep in nonsense and the soda I'm drinking won't improve matters. On Twitter, a writerly friend and I came up with the idea of making a calendar of awkward costumes writers wear when they work. (Bright orange, cut-off gloves for me.) Like a pin-up calendar of awkwardness. Would probably feature a high percentage of unkempt folks in their pajamas. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A NaNoWriMo Post

I hear you thinking, astute reader that you are: "Folly, all this talk of World Fantasy is well and good, but what about NaNoWriMo?"

Indeed. What *about* NaNoWriMo?

Well, it's happening. I'm writing. Life is not all that different than it was before November. I sit at the dining room table with my laptop and type. Then I get distracted and process World Fantasy photos, and then I go back to the laptop and type some more. Sometimes I overdose on candy and soda, and seriously consider going grocery shopping. We need...everything. Maybe I should have groceries delivered. It's only five or ten bucks for that.

Tangents figure prominently in my daily activity.

The cats are getting along better now. Niv sits in my lap while I work, but mostly because she's always trying to steal my food. I have no illusions about love and/or obedience. She's also been sleeping on my neck so I suspect she's just trying to kill me.

I'm participating in a scene writing workshop on Sunday and need to read-through about 12 submissions before then. So the plan for tonight is to finish writing early and get started. And maybe eat something besides mini-candy bars.

World Fantasy Photos on Facebook

For more of my World Fantasy Convention 2011 photos, check out my Folly Blaine Facebook page. I still have more to process, but that's where they'll all be collected.

Don't forget to Like the page, while you're there. :)

And if you're in a photo and want a copy, just contact me with your email address and I'll send a file. (My email is on the About Folly page.)

Okay. Back to the NaNoWriMo mines.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Two photos from World Fantasy 2011

I should be adding to my NaNoWriMo count right now. Instead I'm taking a break to post two pictures from the World Fantasy Convention.

The first is from a special presentation where San Diego Zoo trainers shared a number of exotic (to me) animals. And the second is a picture of Neil Gaiman during an interview. The photos were taken with a Nikon D700.

Owl and trainer during a presentation by the San Diego Zoo on Thursday, October 27, 2011

Neil Gaiman during his guest-of-honor interview on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My first World Fantasy Convention and how it went

Where to even start?

How about 38,000 feet in the air, since that's where I was two hours ago.

I'm back in Seattle, home from my first World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, CA. And it was...

On Twitter I called it a "wonderful dream," even though I knew it sounded twee. I can only think of these big, sweeping adjectives that don't mean anything. Fun, inspiring, awesome. Vague, all-encompassing epithets, that fail to capture the experience. It's like trying to carve a face into a chunk of wood and whittling it down into vapor.

Or maybe that's the sleep-deprivation talking.

I spent the weekend in the same rooms as my heroes. I heard them speak and read and argue. I shook their hands. I made new connections, I saw incredible art and heard exciting stories read by the people who wrote them. I closed my eyes and listened to the words and imagined I could see the structures falling into place.

I'm not sure I can describe this experience without becoming dangerously twee. So I apologize for that. I do understand they were all just people, real people with problems and faults, and by calling them "heroes" it sounds as if I've put them on an unreachable pedestal. I don't mean that. By heroes I mean people whose work I respect and admire.

That's about all I have. Everyone was accessible and welcoming. I learned a lot attending panels and I learned a lot just sitting around talking to people, especially on those late nights when I should have remembered a warmer jacket, but instead sat on the edge of my lawn chair shivering, sipping my drink, and nodding like a bobblehead.

Yes, if you're wondering, it was worth every penny.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My first day of wfc 2011

Hola. It is the morning of day two at the World Fantasy Convention, and I am about to venture out into the world for breakfast. To sum up my experience so far: I am in awe of the wonderful writers, fans, and creative types everywhere. I'm having a great time.

(I've been taking pictures with my fancy camera as I can, but I won't be able to offload those until I get home. So I may post a few from my iPhone if they're worth posting.)

Yesterday I went to a panel on dystopian societies in YA fiction and had a chance to meet urban fantasy author, John Pitts, which was very cool. (Check out his story "The Harp" in 10Flash Quarterly -- 10Flash is also the place to read my story, "The Truth About Woodpeckers")

John Pitts is on the far right

Then I went to the opening ceremonies where brief introductions were made by Neil Gaiman, Parke Godwin, Shawna McCarthy, Val Ontell, Ruth Sanderson, and Connie Willis.

Later there was an interesting live animal demonstration by the San Diego Zoo -- I took lots of photos. I'll post a link here when they're ready next week. Armadillos, pangolins, not-bear-cats (a Binturong actually), oh my.

Still later there were a couple of other panels and hanging out at the bar.


I'm losing steam here at the end of this entry. Thank you for not noticing.

I guess that means it's time to drain this hotel room coffee cup and find real food.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So I'm in southern California. Greetings. I'm visiting my parents for a day and a half and then heading over to the World Fantasy Convention. The weather isn't much different from what I left behind in Seattle. Gray and overcast to be specific.

The flight took 2 hours and 10 minutes, non-stop, no turbulence and no problems.

Been up since 5am and starting to fade. You can tell by my lack of fluidity. Staccato bursts of sunny-time words. Boo. Rad. And don't forget Lee.

Folly, out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing Update for October

Since my internet connection will be spotty through the end of the month, I'm posting my October update early. I expect to hear about one more submission before Nov 1, and I'll update this entry then.

  • Submissions: 5 total -- 2 for publication, 2 for contests, 1 for a workshop
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1 (for a 2012 workshop). Also, 1 story was shortlisted for an anthology.
  • Waiting to hear: 8 total -- 5 for publication, 3 for contests

What have I learned this month?

I continue to be a slow writer. It took me two weeks to write my last 5,600-word short story, however the good news is I'm getting better at identifying and fixing flaws earlier in the process. Not perfect, but better.

I once read some advice given to a young artist, though I can't find the source now: "Get good. Get fast. Then get good and fast."

This is October's motto.

I can tell my work is improving. I am juggling more threads in stories and consciously incorporating themes. As a result, stories are getting longer. There is one more story I hope to finish before November 1 -- the soft sci-fi one I've been talking about. I'd really like to get that out before NaNoWriMo eats my brain.

In November I need to work on subplots, long story arcs, and making sure I know what characters want and what's at stake.

NaNoWriMo, World Fantasy, and The Art of Passive Rejection

I keep forgetting this isn't the last day of the month, because it is as far as I'm concerned. The next week is going to be eaten up by travel and family and my first World Fantasy Convention. (YES!) So everything that needs to get done before NaNoWriMo must get done today.

If you're looking for my NaNo profile it's follyblaine. The ability to add writing buddies should be reinstated soon, according to their site.

By the way, if you're an opportunistic burglar excited at the prospect of my travel, don't bother casing the joint. My husband will be holding down the fort with tar and feathers and other old fashioned defensive weaponry. Like moats. And fierce Amazonian women. On catapults. Or stilts.

We're still working out the logistics.

So over the weekend I got a few things done. I ripped some CDs, because apparently I still buy physical music, and loaded up my iPod with lossless tunes. I put together a scene for a workshop I'm attending in a couple of weeks. And I figured out I'd been rejected by a market by seeing their most recent publication and using mad deductive reasoning to deduce my story wasn't included.

Surprise, I have a comment about that. It just seems reasonable, not to mention respectful, to let your submitters know when their stories are no longer under consideration. I'm not even requesting feedback on why the story was rejected--I understand the reasons aren't always easy to qualify--just a simple form letter and I'm on my way. It doesn't even have to include my name.

If we're even going to pretend that what we do is a business, then a certain level of communication should be expected. If you are accepting submissions and I know my work is in a queue, and you do not accept simultaneous submissions (so I'm locked into your system), the least you could do is let me know when my story is free to circulate.

By choosing the passive option of not telling a submitter their story has been rejected, a market robs the submitter of time. And time is huge, when it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to 4 years to hear back on a story.

It's not even a big enough deal to make me angry. Just makes me think twice before I submit to that market again.

So I took the story and revised it a bit -- I think it's stronger now, so that's a benefit -- and sent it out. This one may have trouble finding a home, but I believe in it and I think someday when you get to read it, it will have been worth the wait.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thinking in scenes

I wrote 1,500 words on the sci-fi story and set it aside with a goal of finishing it before November 1. I had to switch projects because of a deadline.

I'm taking a one-day workshop next month to learn about techniques for writing a good first scene, and as part of the class, I have to submit my own first scene by Tuesday. I had one ready, but it wasn't anything special so I've been rewriting it. I cast two of the characters in my head, tightened up the language, and added a few more story hints to set the tone of the story.

One big problem is I'm not sure where the scene starts and stops. I drop the reader into the middle of the action and then set the main character in motion. She has mini-goals and I present bigger questions, and it moves along fairly quickly.

My gut says the first three pages are the first scene. Something strange happens, she talks to somebody and then she runs for something. After the running part I *think* a new scene starts. But is it really about location? I don't think so.

Links I've found during my research that are particularly useful get posted to my Facebook page. If you want to follow along subscribe or like or whatever it is we do now.

I'll give you one link for free: Wikipedia summarizes Jack Bickham's definition well. He says a scene has a fundamental pattern:

  • Statement of a goal
  • Introduction and development of conflict
  • Failure of the character to reach his goal, a tactical disaster
With that in mind I think I am missing an opportunity for failure in those opening pages. It's funny sometimes. I've spent my life consuming stories and these basic structural elements are still so elusive. I've been so busy suspending my disbelief, I haven't stopped to think about the formula.

I don't believe you can subvert a formula until you know how it works and why. So here's to me learning the basics. A little late trumps never, I guess.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Going to WFC and writing a new story

I finished and submitted the last short story I mentioned here. (Horror, mysterious creatures, 1853). Now I'm working on a science-fiction story (soft SF). I thought it might be flash fiction length, but I'm already at 1000 words and it's still going strong.

Technically I haven't written sci-fi since I was a kid.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The story was this: My characters were on a spaceship, approaching a planet. They were talking about their societal problems -- like not having enough cheese or whatever -- things were going wrong, anarchy and stuff OMG! And then... the planet comes into focus and it's blue and white with large tracts of land, so perfect.... except for all the humans living there...

Yep. The old aliens approaching Earth trope. But hey, I was probably 10 years old and I never tried to publish it. I may have drawn some illustrations for it though.

Different, simpler times -- those heady times when the ellipsis was king and I hadn't yet discovered Asimov or Bradbury or Clarke.

The best news I have to share is that I'll be in San Diego next week for the World Fantasy Convention. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning some things. It'll be my first WFC so if you have any tips, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My first soccer game

Last night Jer took me to my first Sounders game. His work gave him a pair of free tickets so we met for dinner and drinks at Owl 'n' Thistle and headed over to the stadium.

It was a good time. Of all the live sports I've seen, I thought this was the most interesting.

A beautiful Fall afternoon in downtown Seattle, walking from the bus tunnel to the meeting spot

CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders play

My first night-time Sounders game

Monday, October 17, 2011

Steamcon day 2 and 3 with photos

Before I show you the pictures I took with my iPhone, I have one disclaimer. My outfits are bare minimum acceptable. The amount of work and creativity people put into this event was unbelievable and awesome and inspiring. If you ever have the opportunity to attend Steamcon or other steampunk convention, do it! I had a great time, even without knowing what I was getting myself into.

My outfit, day 2 of Steamcon

Full-length view of my outfit, day 2 of Steamcon

A panel on 19th Century Firearms featured about 40 rifles, muskets, and pistols, plus a homemade Gatling gun.

A sabre demonstration.

Gorgeous backs of Victorian dresses

Cool military Steampunk style

A group photo on the stairs of the Hyatt

Day 3 of Steamcon

My outfit, day 3

Author K.W. Jeter (who coined the term Steampunk) and illustrator, Gary Gianni discussing "The Spark of Invention"

My friend, iapetus999

Cool steampunk stilts

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 1 of Steamcon

Top half of my day 1 steampunk outfit

I really enjoyed my first day at Steamcon, a three-day steampunk fan convention in Bellevue, WA. I actually felt underdressed. The outfits were amazing.

Full length shot of my steampunk outfit

I went to the Airship Awards Banquet and met new people over achiote chicken and cheesecake. I went to Cat Rambo's reading of the book she just finished. I went to a panel on the Bessemer Process (an inexpensive industrial process for transforming molten pig iron to steel). And I gathered DIY tips for transforming an apartment into steampunk chic. There was also 19th century astronomy and a short panel on writing.

Today promises to be just as jam-packed. I will be going to my first tea. And maybe learning about fencing. I'll try to take some more crappy iPhone pics for you. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seven years ago

Seven years ago I posted a poem I wrote in 2001. I feel like bumping it up today:

Paparazzi for Sale

years ago the poets wrote
of sacrifice and battling vice
today the talk turns more to rock
the tunes that make our children swoon
morals lost and sins we heap
on paper stars and tinfoil creeps
we make them and we watch them fall
the bloodlust, hypocrite roll call
we send out spies to look for cracks
in polished floors and public acts
they snap perplexed out of context
and get paid well for lies they sell
to impulse press they spell success
in taped affairs and drinks for two

remember that when all else fails
the heights that icarus did reach
were laid to waste by tabloid tales
- By Me, March 2001

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Editing words words words

I'm happy with the way this short story is turning out. Yesterday I edited half, which came to about 2,000 words. I'll tackle the next 2,000 today.

By "editing" I mean I added 800 words, cut with abandon, and filled in gaps so the story reads more smoothly. It's different than I normally write. The story is told in first person and the narrator is not my gender, not my culture, and it takes places in 1853, so I get to play with language like crazy.

I have no idea when I'm going to finish this story, except I know it will be before the deadline. Mostly I'm impatient to send out another submission, since we are a third of the way through the month and all I've done is work on this one story. But I don't want to rush the editing process at the expense of writing the best story I can write. At least not while I have the time to commit, which I don't expect will always be the case.

On Sunday, I attended a one-day Clarion West workshop taught by author Mark Teppo called "Jumpstart Your Novel." It was a great opportunity to think through some of the problems with my longer work before starting NaNoWriMo. He also shared his method of using Tarot cards to help work through creative blocks.

I'm looking forward to giving Tarot cards a try next time I get stuck. It's funny that idea never occurred to me, even though I own several decks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drink your beer and eat your vegatables [sic]

The Great Pumpkin Beer Festival in Georgetown (Elysian Brewing, Oct 8, 2011, Seattle, WA)

On Saturday afternoon Jer and I went to a pumpkin beer festival. Of the six tastings that were included in my $20 admission, here were my favorites:

  • Punk Rauchen, a Smoked Pumpkin Lager, from Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, WA. From the brochure: "Fresh pumpkin was smoked over apple wood for 6 hours then mashed with pale barley malt." I am a big fan of smoked porters and big flavors, so this was perfect for me.
  • Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, WA. Nice and light. If you've ever had ginger beer and liked it, you'll know what to expect. The addition of pumpkin was a nice twist.
  • Coche de Medianoche from Elysian Brewing. This beer was Jer's favorite and I've never had anything like it. From the brochure, "This beer is about the spicing--cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, pan-roasted guajillo chilies and two kinds of cayenne pepper--both the Indian and the super-fiery African, in moderation. There are also roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash." In short, this beer burned in a good way. It was like drinking a cajun Bloody Mary.

The only beer I didn't care for was Orange Manalishi from Elysian Brewery, but maybe I'm just not a fan of the Trappist beer style. It was too flat for me. Also, having only tried about six beers, my sample size is not very scientific. But there ya go.

If you have any interest in attending this festival next year, buy your tickets ahead of time. People waited as much as three hours to get inside. (We were not those people. I would've just left.)

And here's a photo of a sign advertising a local farmer's market. Spot the typo:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Night: Just Me and MS Word

Friday. You sneaked up on me, you cheeky monkey.

Tonight I need to finish a second draft of the short story I've been writing and move on to the next thing. Tomorrow I start a class on novel writing, in the afternoon I'm going to a pumpkin beer festival and the next day I'm at an all day class about novel writing, unrelated to the first one.

Can you tell what my next project is going to be?

By the way, my NaNoWriMo user name is follyblaine. You know, if you want to be buddies. And why wouldn't you? My hair smells like basil and thyme.

I went to the gym again today. But that accomplishment was slightly marred by the fact I ate a bacon cheeseburger and three truffles last night.

Let's just focus on the positive.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Staying motivated to do what needs doing

I'm a sucker for beginnings. I enjoy origin stories. I'm that person who plays her World of Warcraft character up to level 11 and then gets bored. I like the parts of the story when everything is shiny and new and full of hope, before the choices get narrowed and the path is fixed and I can predict the outcome. The moment stuff starts going downhill I get antsy and start cleaning the living room, assuming I'm at home. If I'm at the theater I admire the backs of other people's heads and count the lights in the ceiling.

I think this predilection for newness carries over into other areas of my life -- specifically the gym. For the first two weeks of working out, it always feels like I'm the star of a sports montage. Like I'm going to race up the museum steps at the end to stirringly heart-pounding music, or do bad ass chinups in the desert with a bunch of terminators on my tail.

The truth is, it's always just more of the same. There's never any climatic moment and the movie is over. IT JUST KEEPS GOING. Forever.

This character trait is going to affect my NaNoWriMo attempt. So let's address it. Together. How do I defeat the serial blah-blahs?

Up the ante. Progress and escalate the challenges. Treat the plateau like a hot potato.

Mix it up. Whether it's writing or exercise, change locations, change methods, keep it interesting. Staleness is the enemy.

Find a buddy. With writing I've found many buddies and it's helped my output immensely. For exercise and health, I know I have online friends going through the same stuff. I could also check out the Weight Watchers forums since I no longer attend meetings.

Or I could just find a nemesis. It'd probably be easier to find a nemesis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Hello, treadmill. We meet again.

I'm on day two of returning to the gym and I'm already sore. I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits, besides the obvious zombie-fleeing reasons.

Heart health? Better mood? Requiring less booze before I feel the effects of drunkenness?

All excellent reasons.

For a couple of years I met with a personal trainer once or twice a week and that was extremely useful. For one, I learned how to use all the scary machines. For two, I learned I could push myself a lot further than I ever thought possible.

(For proof, see the blog entry where I drew myself using a particularly hated piece of gym equipment.)

Enough about my superior MS Paint skills. Let's check in about writing.

Okay. Well, I'm writing. I'm at 740 words for the day and counting. My hands are cold and I'm thinking of putting on another pot of coffee. I'm wearing bright orange cut-off cotton gloves I bought at Daiso. So I will never lose track of my hands.

Now you know everything.

There will be a quiz.

Monday, October 03, 2011

New story in progress

I started a new short story yesterday and I've written about 1,300 words so far. I'm not sure how long it'll end up. Maybe 3,000-3,500 words? I'm just focusing on having fun with this one. No planning. I've been thinking too much and losing some of the spontaneity.

I'll turn thinking back on for the second draft.

Another experiment, eh? Whatever works.

I've received some really nice feedback on my newest flash fiction piece, "The Truth About Woodpeckers." I'm happy people are finding it entertaining.

Integration of the cats is slow going. For limited periods of time they are willing to stay in the same room together. We are still separating them at night and for meals. I don't expect that will change anytime soon. Baby steps.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

My computer wishlist from 1999

Jer and I ate breakfast at Panera's. I needed to get out of the house, specifically away from the internet, so I brought along an old notebook and a pen to make my words. Then I made the mistake of reading some old entries.

My favorite entry is from July 4, 1999:

My computer wishlist:

  • 128MB RAM
  • Minimum 6GB hard drive
  • Intellimouse
  • Mouse gel pad
  • Curved keyboard
  • Speakers not attached to monitor
  • Epson Stylus Color 900
  • DVD
  • CD Writer/Rewriter
  • Floppy 3.5"
  • 32MB video card
  • Zip drive

I was still rocking the floppy back then. Go me.

Most of what I wrote is now embarrassing, but I've got to claim it.

It's me.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

New story, "The Truth About Woodpeckers"

I'm excited to share my new flash fiction piece, The Truth About Woodpeckers is now up at 10Flash Quarterly. (Read it here.)

It's an honor to be included in this issue. All the contributors have written stories around the same prompt: It’s quiet. Too quiet. Other authors in this issue include J.A. Pitts, Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, and more.

Editors at 10Flash have categorized this piece as slipstream, which Wikipedia defines as "a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy and mainstream literary fiction." So if you're not a fan of horror and dark fantasy like my other published work, here's a story for you.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What it's like in month nine

Even when I know a problem is only in my head, it's not necessarily easier to deal with. This has been a week of self-doubt, weird dreams, and poor eating habits, which all add up to a sleepy me, engaged in half-assed self-reflection as I will the coffee to brew faster.

So here's the deal: If I bring up a problem I try to bring up a solution. So let's talk about how I can make life better for my noggin.

  • Spend the weekend integrating the cats. For the past week we've kept them mostly apart and one of us has been sleeping on the couch to keep Chiana company. Couch dreams are fickle dreams.
  • Drink coffee. Or sleep. Then shut the hell up about being tired. Everybody is tired.
  • Exercise. Go outside or to the gym. Move you lazy creature!
  • Recognize what I do and do not have control over. (This has always been my biggest challenge.) Quit worrying about the stuff you can't change. There's no profit in it.
  • Handle that paperwork I've been avoiding. You know the paperwork.
  • Stop switching between first and second person. It's creepy.
  • You're creepy.
  • Callate la boca.

This is such a strange job I've signed up for, and I've never done anything like it. You work for long stretches in a cocoon of silence alone with your thoughts, making stuff up, and nobody pays you anything most of the time or pats you on the head and says, good work. All the motivation has to be internal, all the resources for fighting off the sad times and the constant stream of judgment dribbling in through the email inbox and the mailbox, hoping for the best.

Geez. Does it sound like I'm complaining again? I'm not. Not really. I love having this opportunity. I've been very fortunate -- I've met really fantastic and interesting people. I've had three flash fiction pieces accepted in a short time. I have a wonderful husband and family who are all very supportive. This is the best possible world.

And I still have so much to learn about writing. There are no shortcuts. I feel like there's this heavy boulder crashing down a hill and what I'm doing right now is stopping that boulder and turning it around. Every day I make a little more progress.

Sisyphus metaphors make the boring reality of typing all day seem much more dramatic.

The only cure is to write more. Or learn more. Or both.

So you and me computer. Let's dance.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baseball and blackberries

Waiting at the bus stop, admiring the blackberries

I took the bus downtown last night to meet Jer. After drinks with his coworkers we headed over to the stadium to watch the Mariners play. I always feel like an interloper at events like this, particularly with baseball. I try to understand what's going on, who's doing what and why, and I'm lost.

Mariner's game 9/28/11

I keep trying though. I'm stubborn like that.

Yesterday I submitted a story and received a rejection, unrelated to the submission. One step forward, one step back.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cherie Priest Reading at UW Bookstore

I left the house last night to meet friends and see author Cherie Priest read at the University of Washington Bookstore. She is best known for the steampunk tale, Boneshaker, but is fairly prolific, having written 11 novels and counting.

Some of you may remember Boneshaker was part of the recommended books list made up of friend and Moonshine reader suggestions.

Priest's reading was interesting and the Q&A portion entertaining. It was great to put a name with a face. I brought home a signed copy of The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature, and I'm looking forward to reading and admiring the art.

One slightly annoying discovery was that street parking around the University is now enforced between 8am and 8pm for a two hour maximum limit, which means more trips to the car to keep payment current. (It used to only go until 6pm) I get that they want to increase paid parking revenue, I just wish the limit was longer than two hours or I could renew from my phone since most events I attend at UW begin at 7pm and I usually arrive around 4:30 to shop or eat ahead of time, thus necessitating an extra trip to the car. I suppose I could just skip shopping and dinner and arrive after 6pm for events.

Probably not what the city had in mind though.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Niviane and what's a story

Much of my day has revolved around a little black ball of fluff with tiny needle-like claws. Kitty and I visited the vet today to have her checked over -- when I made the appointment I told them her name is Niviane, so I guess that's that -- and the vet said everything looked good. I also had them trim her claws, so she can start getting used to the sensation.

Nail clipping is something we never did with Vash or Chiana, and I have the scars to prove it.

Today I also introduced her to Cat Dancer, which is hands-down the best cat toy I've ever used. It's freakishly simple and stupid looking, just springy steel wire and rolled cardboard, and yet every cat I've ever exposed it to can't get enough. For only $3 plus tax, you too can know the strange joy inherent in Cat Dancer: The Action Cat Toy.

I'm sure the cat talk will die down soon, so don't let me scare you away if it's not your thing.

Speaking of writing, I spent most of yesterday reading about the business of writing. And I read Ben Bova's answer in "The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells" to What is story? as a narrative description of a character struggling to solve a problem. I like that definition and it's given me new insights into what I'm trying to accomplish here.

To put it into practice and in the hopes of adding depth, I'm going back over a story that's been rejected and adding some inner emotional problems to go with the outer physical problems. We'll see if it works soon enough.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enter new cat, stage left

Jer and I have been discussing getting another cat for months now. Vash (our 8 year old male cat) passed away last May, and with me staying home to write, and no conferences or conventions for a few weeks, the timing finally worked out. So last night we found ourselves at the Humane Society in Bellevue, meeting all the cats up for adoption. We hadn't originally set out to arrive at that particular location, so we were surprised to find all the cats and kittens on sale right now, $25 for cats older than 6 months, $50 for kittens.

There was another cat we liked at first, but that one needed to be an only cat. So we went to a neighboring room and met a little one year old furball named Bea, who was vocal and pushy and curious and very affectionate. I grabbed her paperwork, we applied for adoption, and then an hour or so later we were able to take her home in the carrier.

We're keeping Chiana (our 7 year old female) and her separated for about a week and then we'll slowly introduce them. The staff said two females are the hardest to introduce, so Jer and I are taking turns with each cat and making sure nobody is feeling left out. I would especially hate for Chiana to feel neglected in all this.

That probably sounds silly to non-cat people.

I am angling to name the new cat, Niviane, after the huntress that Merlin fell for and who ultimately destroyed him. I would call her Nivi for short, or Niv. I'm not sure Jer is on board with that yet, but I suspect I can wear him down.

All of this is to say, stay tuned for more wacky hijinx. Now with more cats.

Progress Check for September

Updated on September 29th with 1 more submission and 1 more rejection

Here are my writing submission stats for September 2011:

  • Submissions: 4
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 1 (to 10Flash Quarterly for 10/1 posting)
  • Pending submissions as of 9/25: 6

This summary is slightly premature because I expect to hear about one of the pending submissions any day now, and I plan to resubmit one of the rejected stories before October, but there you go. - Updated 9/29

2011 Overall Status (Didn't start submitting in earnest until June 1):

  • Total Individual Works: 16
  • Acceptances in 2011: 3
  • Rejections in 2011: 16

Friday, September 23, 2011

Desperately Seeking Dorothy

Someone on the internet is wrong, and I'm having one of those mornings where I'd really like to engage the person in adult conversation and ask them to reexamine their opinion in a civil and respectful manner.

But we all know how well that'd actually go.

Besides, it's all just excuses not to finish what needs finishing. I have stories to critique and stories to write, and there's no profit in the rest of it.

Or so I tell myself.

I should mention for posterity that I attended a new writing group last night, which I don't think is a secret. It was a nice change because we sat down and wrote during our time together, which is not to say I have an issue with the critique-style groups at all. I have been very lucky to stumble into a number of writing groups in these past few months, full of talented and friendly individuals. And every one of them has helped make my writing better. I'm just saying that sometimes it is also nice to eat a chocolate truffle and put some words on the page.

Or maybe I am desperately trying to be Dorothy Parker in search of my own Algonquin Round Table.

There are worse things to be.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Neal Stephenson follow-up and a story sale

Photo of Neal Stephenson answering audience questions at Town Hall in Seattle, September 20, 2011

I met Jer after work and saw his new workspace. Then we walked over to the Elysian for dinner. I was disappointed they didn't have any pumpkin beers available yet, but soon. (Their pumpkin beer fest is Oct 8-9, and I have tickets for Saturday.)

Our table was on the narrow, fenced-in strip that just qualified as outside, and we watched the hundreds of Sounders fans stream past in their bright green shirts and scarves for the stadium. I listened to the conversations around us and pretended they were instruments in a serendipitous cosmic tune.

As you do.

Later we drove up to Town Hall and found convenient parking. There was no wait to get inside and I already had my tickets in hand, so we found seats and waited for Neal Stephenson.

The reading lasted about 45 minutes and then there were questions. The most interesting answer I'll take away is Stephenson's assertion -- in response to a question about the heft of his books -- that novels provide the best outlet for depth and scope of storytelling. A storyteller should take advantage of that opportunity.

We came home and I learned I sold a story. It'll be out October 1, and I'm very excited to be selected by this market. It also makes three acceptances in three months, if you're following along, and marks the first time I've sold a story on my first try. The other stories I've had accepted were rejected and revised before acceptance elsewhere.

All of this is to say: Tuesday was a good day.