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!