Monday, January 30, 2012

Slow but steady

I'm still rewriting the dark fantasy story I've been talking about for two weeks. I had hoped this would be the post where I could say, "Hey! I finished another story. Look at how awesome I am!" But--and not for the first time--my ambitions have exceeded my reality.

Not that I'm beating myself up over it. No, ma'am. There's a chance this might be my best story yet, and if it needs a little more time to gel then that's what it needs. Right now I'm rewriting the climax through to the end. Everything else I'm pretty happy with at this point.

Also, to put it in perspective: The first draft was 2,900 words. It's now at 4,300 words. And many of those initial 2,900 words are different/better than before. I wonder if I'll ever be able to sit down and write a story without ripping it apart and putting it back together again because it's really inefficient to write this way.

The week is looking fairly busy. I'm venturing downtown to see some friends tomorrow night. I'm going to a reading on Wednesday, and Thursday is writing with other friends. I also owe five pages to my novel revision class for Saturday. I'm struggling with this because my story is in abysmal shape and I should rewrite those five pages to be more in line with the rest of the work. I sort of switched genres mid-way through the WIP. No big deal, right? Ugh.

My philosophy for the month: If I flounder enough, maybe I'll stumble into something that resembles progress.

Flailing, for the win!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short stories, taxes, and public reading

I think this is the last day my story will be featured on the main "Shorts" page of If you haven't read The Hero Garden yet and would like to, here's the link. It won't be disappearing after today, but it may take a couple of extra clicks to find.

I finally sat down and figured out how much I made last year for my photography business taxes. There are always lots of little things trickling in, so I sort of dread getting everything together, but it worked out just fine. My taxes are filed and now I just have to start looking forward to our personal taxes in a couple of months. Yay.

I'm still writing the dark fantasy story I mentioned before. I'm trying to give this one lots of thought up front and not settle for what I first put down. I have a list of questions I keep asking myself like, how can I make the danger more personal? What if x was x? Why does he make the choice he makes that leads to that result?

So it's slow going, but I think the end result will be better for it.

Last night I also asked for a reading slot at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City at the end of March. I'm hoping to read from British Guiana, 1853, which will be part of the new anthology, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, scheduled for release at the convention. Hopefully that all works out. If it does, it will be my first public reading.

If you have any interest in hearing me read, I recorded myself reading Eau de Public Transit for Every Day Fiction, and you can listen to the flash fiction piece through their web site here. Takes me back to my all-too-brief high school acting career. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

First draft of new story completed

I just finished the first draft of a new story -- my first finished draft since my monster 7,900-word horror story last month. (Not counting flash fiction or rewrites.)

I finished the draft then immediately opened Notepad and listed out all the major problems. I came up with seven structural issues I need to address before I let anyone else read it. Mostly I need to do some more foreshadowing and establish the main conflict sooner. You know, the little things I didn't know the answer to until I was finished writing. Hopefully I can find some simple solutions.

The story is about 2,900 words but will probably grow another 500 to 1,000 words since I tend to underwrite in the first draft. I guess I also need a name for it -- make that issue number eight. :)

You could say this one is dark fantasy. I wrote the first 500 words a year ago and then stalled out, so I've been thinking about this one for a while. Feels good to be making progress again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A tiny, predictable rant about weather

By yesterday afternoon our side streets were almost entirely clear of snow. I was able to leave in the morning and get to to my novel revision class on the East side without incident, which was good because it had been six days since we'd left the house and I was going stir crazy.

I bet snow is really nice in places where the city plows the side streets. And where there aren't steep hills everywhere to go sliding down. Of course the entire time it was happening the internet had to weigh in on how wimpy Seattle-ites are and/or how the rest of the country doesn't understand our situation.

Whatever. Here's what happened: it snowed 9 inches at my house this week. When that happens, it is difficult to get anywhere reliably. You can improve your chances by living on the main drag (which gets plowed) or walking to the main drag to catch a bus or owning a Subaru (which can apparently tackle any weather condition).

Taking the bus means standing on the street for possibly hours, hoping one shows up and when it does, sometimes the driver (due to physics, not poor driving) can't get up a freeway onramp and no one can tell you where to go from there. So you end up hopping on a random bus that is standing room only and hoping it gets you close to where you need to go. God knows how you'll get home again because all the buses are also on snow routes, which are impossible to guess.

Or maybe I'm just bitter because that's happened to me. Too much.

This is the point where I fully embrace my crochety-old-person-persona.

When I first moved here, snow in Seattle was cute. Then I realized it's actually kind of dangerous. At one point this week, 230,000 people had no power. Some of them still don't. Some dude repeatedly punched a Metro driver in the face when he refused to pay the full fare, causing the bus to crash. People think it's acceptable to drive their cars around the streets with skiers hanging on to the back because it's fun. Whee.

You know, if you die in the snow, you die in real life, right?

Yeah, I get it. It snows other places. We're not special snowflakes. Suck it up. But it's these damn, wonderful hills we have in abundance that really make life difficult and different from other places. And the truth is, I can put up with the snow for a week at a time; as long as I avoid everybody else it's not going to kill me. But I'll be damned if I keep ignoring everybody making fun of us because we can't get out of our neighborhoods. Most of us really can't. Scout's honor. Heck, we haven't even had garbage collection in a week because the city can't get to our houses either. But you know what? We've had mail delivery every day. I think that's pretty freaking amazing.

The heroes in this situation are the city's bus drivers and mail delivery personnel. And all of the men and women working to fix the power outages. And the road crews clearing fallen trees. And everyone who can figure out how to navigate the arbitrary snow route system. You all have my respect and gratitude for keeping the city moving, despite or in spite of dumbasses riding around neighborhoods towing skiers and whipping them around corners.

Oh? Is my bad attitude showing again? Whoopsies. Maybe some more coffee will just fix that right up.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

New short story published

I'm pleased to announce my superhero-fantasy short story, "The Hero Garden," is now live over at

You can read "The Hero Garden" now.

The story follows a teenage girl on the verge of discovering her own power, as she grapples with the question: what's so great about being a hero, anyway?

This is my longest story published at 2,000 words -- although in spring my 5,600-word horror story is scheduled to come out in the anthology, "Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations," so it's not technically my first short story sale.

I hope you'll check out "The Hero Garden." And thanks so much for reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Raiding the pantry

My car, our street, and snow

I don't cook as much as I should, so being "snowed in" has brought its own set of culinary challenges. Luckily my pantry and the freezer are better stocked than normal and -- while they haven't been gourmet meals -- I've kept Jer and myself alive.

Last night I made grilled cheese sandwiches and heated up a can of chicken soup. For lunch today I am thinking Tasty Bite (Madras Lentils) over brown rice. I improvised nachos with a bag of cilantro-lime tortilla chips, shredded cheese, a can of refried beans, and olives, and we've been eating a lot of fried egg sandwiches. (This is not punishment. We both really like them.)

No foodie awards for sure, but I think you underestimate the "keeping us alive" part.

So why are we snowed in when there's maybe 4 or 5 inches on the ground? Well, the city of Seattle doesn't plow side streets to start, and my car is not good at staying on the road when it's slick. Also, because of that one time I wanted to buy a snow shovel and Jer talked me out of it, our driveway is becoming treacherous. Freezing rain and what not. (The 'what not' being that I am a wuss.)

I amused myself yesterday by knocking snow off the tree branches around our house, scraping the snow off my car (just in case), and liberating the yard waste bin from its ice prison. Jer is working from home so I'd come stomping back inside, my hair dripping with melting snow and grinning and he'd say, "What did you do now?"

Heh. I stopped short of making snow angels. That seemed like all kinds of unnecessary cold.

I learned yesterday you pronounce Pepys, as in Samuel Pepys, famous diarist, PEEPS. I had no idea. Thank goodness his name rarely comes up in conversation. I would've looked like such a fool.

Winky face.

This entry brought to you by Not Leaving the House in Five Days.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Going to Canada

In my whole life, I've only spent about five hours in Canada. Jer and I took a day trip to Victoria in 2003, and it was memorable for reasons that weren't great. Jer was ill, it was hot, I hadn't done enough research on what to see in our short time there, and the first person we passed made fun of us (it was a street performer playing to a crowd.) We ended up tired and broken at a McDonald's, after window shopping for several hours and going on a lackluster double-decker tour bus ride. The only thing I remember about the tour was brown grass and a cemetery that lost many of its graves during heavy rains.

It was not a good day.

Now I finally have the chance to try again. In November, I am going to Toronto for the World Fantasy Convention. Granted, I won't have time to sightsee, but I am hoping it will erase any bad associations I have with our neighbors to the north. I would really like to get over those, because it would be stupid to let a five-hour day trip unjustly color an entire country. Stupid and arbitrary.

So I'm excited about that. Of course I'm also excited to attend the convention. It will be my second WFC and I had a great time at the last one.

We've had light snow all morning here in Seattle. It is nice to be inside and warm, with lots of coffee and frozen meals. I boiled angel hair pasta for dinner last night and baked a batch of brownies, so we aren't in danger of starving.

I am grateful we haven't lost power.

I was considering walking to the grocery store to get some exercise, but I think I'm going to be lazy instead. I don't own any boots, I'm still getting over a cold, and icy, wet feet are counterproductive to health. Or so they would have you believe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great performances on TV - Company and Anna Deavere Smith

We had snow yesterday, and today the ground and the cars and the deck and the ivy and the leaves are all covered in a layer of icy encrusted white.

I haven't been feeling well lately, and the sore throat I woke up with sealed the deal. So today I will probably be imbibing warm fluids and taking it easy.

PBS has been showing some wonderful live performances. Last night they showed Sondheim's "Company," and Heather Laws shined as Amy. Here, watch this (my favorite part starts about 1 minute 15 seconds in):

If the embedded video fails to load, click here.

A few days before they showed Anna Deavere Smith's "Let Me Down Easy." If you don't know her work, she invented a kind of documentary theatre. To prepare, she interviews a number of people on all sides of a specific topic -- a socially charged topic -- and then performs their interviews on stage, nervous tics and all.

"Let Me Down Easy," is known as the health care play. Here's the trailer:

If the embedded video fails to load, click here.

It's hard to explain what Smith creates on stage, but it's important work and you should be aware it's happening. These are real people, real stories, and they are not always easy to hear. But I think that's what makes the play so powerful.

"Let Me Down Easy" is theatre at its best: a strong performer giving us insight into universal truths. It's hard to pick my favorite bit, but if I had to pick one, watch Smith's portrayal of Kurtz-Burke starting at 48:35.

Stream "Let Me Down Easy" for free at now

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mental preparation

I've been putting off working on my 50k WIP revisions, but today is the day. Last night I created the spreadsheet for keeping track of everything and started splitting the big chunk into bits in Scrivener. I charged my iPod, I don't have to leave the house until evening, I have plenty of coffee and food, and Windows Update has already hijacked my computer once this morning so no more automatic updates to worry about for a while.

I still have a few other projects on my mind--the main reason I've been putting this off--but I'm giving myself permission not to work on those right now.

Dear Self, let's make a plan to spend at least 3 hours on the WIP today. Okay?



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Full of Busy

Yesterday was full of busy, but important work. And if it looks suspiciously like procrastination in my word count log, I forgive myself this one time.

  • I sent a submission to a new market
  • I sent a revision draft for a workshop
  • I submitted an application to a different workshop

Looking back, last year feels like the stumbling-around, let's-get-my-bearings-straight year, and this year feels like I've just graduated high school and now I'm hedging my bets on getting into a good college.

Probably because I spend so much time staring at my inbox, willing it to contain something other than spam and newsletters.

I'm still tracking the food I eat, which makes me grumpy. I turned to Jer last night and said, "You know what I hate most about Weight Watchers?"

"What?" he said, humoring me.

"It's that it works," I said.

Stupid Weight Watchers.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Added a new Schedule page and happy Sunday

I added a Schedule page to the site so you can see all the conventions I've registered for in 2012. I'm still debating a couple of others, so it's not a final list, but it's pretty close. If you're going to any of these too, let me know if you'd like to meet up. I've wandered these things alone and I've wandered them with friends; knowing people is usually preferable.

Yesterday was the first day of my novel revision class. It was good. Nice to see a lot of familiar faces there. Immediately after I raced off to writing group across town so it ended up being a long day. Not too tough though, which is good since this schedule has to last the next two months.

Speaking of racing places, it was my first time crossing the 520 bridge since tolling went into effect. I checked the Good To Go web site and my tolls processed correctly, so no complaints there. And it was awful nice to see a bald eagle perched on a streetlight as I passed over the floating bridge.

As far as fiction goes, the words are coming slow, but nothing else to report.

Happy Sunday.

Friday, January 06, 2012

First week, first month

This morning I've been tackling bureaucratic tasks that have piled up. I finally broke down and made myself a to-do list to keep everything straight. Little things like, "Put the Good to Go pass on the car," "Register for convention," "Submit story to workshop," "File business taxes."

Doesn't mean I've done all of these things yet. Just means I know what I need to do now.

I submitted my first week's Write 1 Sub 1 story yesterday. The novel revision class I'm taking starts tomorrow. And I just finished my first week back at Weight Watchers with a loss, so that's good. (I'm doing the etools only version this time.)

I haven't made it back to the gym yet. Baby steps.

As for writing, I have a few short stories I'm playing with, but nothing solid yet.

So I'll just keep chugging along.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Failing at patience again

Although I have around six stories out, only one would receive publication if selected. So I'm getting just a little antsy thinking how far behind I am.

Crazy, huh? The things my brain worries about...

I've got a Write 1 Sub 1 story started, and I spent the last day rewriting a short story whose first draft I finished last July. I think I'm on the fourth draft now? It's definitely a lot better than it was, at least. Much tighter and with an actual point.

I already have a couple places in mind to send the rewritten story, but neither of them would mean publication either. I really need to get some new stories finished and circulating.

Today was the first day Jer went back to work in a couple of weeks and I wish he didn't have to. It's been nice having him around, and it didn't affect my productivity too much. In a perfect world we could both work from home all the time, so I guess that's another goal to aspire to. You know, making money. Always a good goal.

Monday, January 02, 2012

January 19 is the day to read my first short story

I've been told my new superhero-fantasy story, The Hero Garden, will be published at on Thursday, January 19th. I'm pretty excited since it will be my first published short story, if you don't include my flash fiction.

It's not my first short story sale however. But then the first sale story won't be available until spring, so "The Hero Garden" remains my first chance to prove to the world I can write over 1,000 words at a time. In this case, 2,000.

Assuming that is the sort of arbitrary proof that needs proving...

All day I've been rewriting a totally different short story and I keep looking up at the clock and seeing another hour has passed. I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten this silly thing, but I think the end is finally in sight. I'll leave it until tomorrow and then send it to writing group.

It is nice to have a plan.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Reading my way through another Dec 31

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Year's Eve.

Jeremy built a fire in the living room fireplace and I settled in with my books, afghan, and Kindle, while he took to the opposite couch with his laptop to play Eve. Then the cat sat on me and all was lost.

I hardly ever read just one book at a time, so I read a couple chapters from Murakami's "1Q84," a story from Kelly Link's "Magic for Beginners," and about a quarter of the first book in the "The Hunger Games Trilogy."

So after I read and read for hours next to the fire, Jer and I shared a bottle of Prosecco and watched "Young Frankenstein," as you do.

A nice, laid back, low-key night.

Plus I found out I sold a story about heroes, and that's always good news.

Coffee calls.