Writing a novel is hard. Editing a novel is harder still (for me, at any rate). It’s a slow game, and a long game, especially if, like me, you’re hoping to pursue a traditional-publishing writing deal. There isn’t much to show for long stretches of time. I get it, but it’s the field I’ve chosen to pursue.
In the interest of keeping my blog alive, therefore: real life!
Over the weekend, we went to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, and we spotted baby alligators! And got to hear their quiet peeping to momma, who hovered protectively nearby (don’t worry, there was a sheer drop keeping momma in the water and us safe). Then we drove further and spotted a huge gator sunning just over the bridge and past the fence line. I’ve seen one there before, usually in the water, though, so it was cool to see it up on dry land. It had to be 10 ft long! (go ahead and click to enlarge the photos–especially those cute baby alligators with their yellow stripes!)
That’s it for now. Cute alligators and writing. One does not lead to the other, but both are keeping me afloat. Just, ya know, I’m not generally “floating” in the vicinity of the gators…
Last year, friends of ours in Hamburg got married. They’d planned a large fête, and we’d planned on attending. Then COVID arrived, and didn’t leave.
They got married, but postponed the celebration. Earlier this year, in the wake of vaccinations, they rescheduled their celebration, but on a smaller scale. We dreamed of packing our bags. And then the Delta variant arrived.
Nonetheless, they kept their plans intact. They monitored the situation like hawks eyeing rabbits, and it seemed okay on their end–Germany’s numbers declined greatly after vaccinations rolled out, and didn’t spike as hard with Delta as we did in Florida (well, duh!–hardly anyplace did that!). We decided that being double-vaccinated and wearing N95s on the journey would keep our risk low enough, so we packed our bags and went!
Reader, it was glorious! Fall was just dipping the temps to bliss (for me at least, previously being stuck in the sweltering heat and continuing humidity of central Florida’s September), so Spousal-Unit and I got to wear long pants, long sleeves, and yes, even socks! Nighttime temps dipped to the low 40’s F, and days mostly hit around 68 F, with partly sunny skies making it neither too hot nor too cold for all the walking and walking and walking we did. Have I mentioned the walking? I love being outdoors, and Florida summers are really tough on me. Even going outside at night is difficult as most parks close at dusk (due to alligators, snakes, and biting bugs), and even my yard is a no-go zone then (FL bugs think I’m delicious, unfortunately; I just itch.).
The restaurants and markets were full-on autumn, with chanterelle mushrooms, a variety of pumpkins (mmm that soup), the last of the vivid tomatoes, leeks, and so much more. It’s a good thing we walked as much as we did, honestly.
It was hard to come home, but my dog was waiting for me, so we undertook the 23-hour journey home and crashed into bed, only to rise the next morning and drive 4.5 hours roundtrip to pick up said Dasher. (Yes, he was worth it–especially him cuddling us both all that night, trying to make sure we didn’t leave him again.)
I’m glad we went. I’m super glad we all stayed healthy. But it’s also good to be home, and get back to writing.
Yes, that’s right! My story is up now at Nature: Futures, and you can read it here. And as usual, the artwork paired with the story is perfect. ❤
I promised you a wee bit more info on the story, even though there’s the “story behind the story” bit at the end. So, what have I got?
This story, like so much of my flash fiction, is the result of a flash fiction writing contest over on Codex. And it wasn’t the first niggling story idea, or even the second one, that developed into this story, but the third one! Which just goes toward proving that one’s first idea isn’t necessarily the best. It can be hard to press on after story ideas, especially with a fast deadline for a contest, but it pays off. My first ideas are usually not right, either too expected and unoriginal, or just not interesting. But around idea 3, or 5, I start getting the hang of it, and my creativity shows up, having been woken at long last.
After the contest, the story went through a couple more rounds of editing to prune out words and fit Nature’s tight wordcount requirements, and to hone in on the point of the story and clear up confusion. And then, sucking in a great breath, I formatted it, exported it, and submitted it–it’s still a hard thing to do, hitting that “send” button. Even after all this time.
So many times, a story comes back rejected. But once in awhile, like this time, you get that wonderful acceptance, and the day turns golden and rosy-hued, and you know once again why it is you’re writing. Because somewhere out there, someone actually likes what you’re saying. Maybe they need to read it, the way I used to “need” the books and stories I read as a kid, and the ones that sometimes even today punch into a topic or trope that I’ve been grinding my teeth over. And having read those words, I feel lighter. Seen, and understood. The world begins to make sense as my outlook changes, hopefully for the better.
Thanks for reading, and looking at the world from my point of view.
I have amazingly awesome news: the scientific journal Nature has accepted one of my flash stories for publication in their “Futures” department–this upcoming Wednesday, August 18!
As you might remember, I sold them a story last year; “What You Do For a Friend” ran in Nature’s Futures, on July 22, 2020. So, almost a year later, another sale to this wonderful market is making me very happy indeed. (You can read about that sale on my blog here.)
This time, the story is titled “Terraforming the Heart,” and yes, it deals with a future terraforming contest. I liked the story when I wrote it, and think its message only applies even more now. Of course I’ll provide a link when the story goes live, and a wee bit of backstory about the writing.
Great news: I finished the draft of the *&*%) Novel, and have sent it off to my beta readers/crit group. In five weeks, I’ll hear from them what they think. (Commence nail biting…)
In the meanwhile, I’m far from resting on my laurels. No indeed. While I’m now working on my agent submission schedule, and things like synopses and query letters (omg how awful these are!), I’m also doing something entirely more fun–starting on a new novel!
This one is going to be contemporary fantasy (instead of secondary world, like the first). And set in a really cool place, too (sorry, mum’s the word for now. I don’t like sharing too much until I’m much more firmly in place with my writing, and planning.) I’ve just now finished the full plot outline, and man is this one going to be fun to write! I love the characters so much, and even the bad guys are interesting. At one point, I texted a writer-friend and whined, “How do I let the protagonists win when I’ve so fully stacked the deck against them?!? Ahhhhhh, I don’t know!”
But now, with some helpful prodding by said friend, I’ve figured it out. As always, some bits were serendipitous, little things that just fell into place because of what I’d determined before, but seemed so well planned. (Thank you, subconscious brain!) Other bits, like the ending, were so harrrrd to wrestle into place.
It’s not entirely done. I still have plenty of brackets in the outline, like this:
“They then do [some cool things], but things don’t go entirely as planned [how? What fails?].”
So I’m not ready to start drafting just yet. But I’m getting close! And it’s just such a palate-cleanser from the last novel. Something new and juicy and not yet slogged through four times in a row. With luck, this means that when I get feedback on Novel the First, I’ll be able to look at it with refreshed eyes, and in a mood to rip right on into the work and send it out! (Heh, cross your fingers on that, okay?)
In other news, I have moved so much mulch! It has to be done before 10 am, when the temps and humidity and sunlight combine to make life utterly miserable for the rest of summer. Yesterday, for example, hit a high of 101F, and the humidity made it seem like my lungs were working double and my muscles were wilting on the afternoon (VERY short) dog walk. But the gardens are looking great!
Not so great is the front yard, where a mole has taken up residence and keeps lifting up tunnels that I, daily, sometimes 2 or 3 times daily, smash back down. We play frisbee with Dasher there, and if he steps on one and falls through, he could easily break a leg. Even if he doesn’t, jolting his limbs like that really hurts, since his arthritis is so bad. But he is not about to give up his 15 minutes of frisbee–not for heat, not for moles, not for anything. So here I go, smashing down mole tunnels.
That’s it for now. The afternoon storm has arrived in force. Lightning cracks and whitens the outside as rain sheets against the window, and the lawn outside. Time for a cup of tea, and a good book…
It’s not exactly “new” news anymore, but now that the Kickstarter has funded (and Dasher’s health has taken a break from crises), I can share–without fear of jinxing–that a story of mine will appear in the debut issue of ScienceFictionry Magazine!
This is a double-whammy of a delight. I mean, any sale is a delight, of course! But a sale to a debut issue is an extra Bingo Square in the game of writing goals, you know? At least, it is for me. This is the first time it’s happening for one of my stories, and I’m thrilled.
Oddly, it’s also “weird-ening” too, in that the site makes it look like I’m somehow a “big deal.” I sure don’t feel like a big deal (actually, I know I’m just a tiny, bitty deal), and I greatly doubt that anyone would mistake me for one. But their presentation of the writers in this debut is very lovely, and makes us all look like the professionals we’re hoping to be. [Or maybe that’s just me, and the rest are all old pros at this already? (Well, looky-look, if it isn’t my old companion, Impostor Syndrome, come for another lengthy visit…)]
The magazine’s first issue should be available to the public in August, and naturally I’ll give you a head’s-up that it’s out. I can’t wait to read the issue and see what wonders my fellow TOC-mates have written! I hope you’ll give it a read, too. Magazines without readers don’t last, after all.
I’ll leave you with a picture of Dasher napping inside, safe from the rain and thundershowers passing by:
The Nebula Awards Conference weekend was a blast! I got to meet new people, put faces and voices (!) to names and still pictures, and hang out with some familiar friends–and watch as John Wiswell, one of my Viable Paradise classmates, won the award for Best Short Story with his story (published at Diabolical Plots), “Open House on Haunted Hill.” Go ahead and read it. I’ll still be here, and you won’t regret it. So first of all, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to John!
I also volunteered a bit, and got to help people enter the Hopkinson Suite, many for the first time. I really enjoyed my volunteering time, and was very fortunate that no laser bats found the Airship during my watches! Things went a lot smoother this year, since the people behind the scenes had last year’s ongoing re-boots as a “don’t do this” training exercise. And many of the good things remained–the Airship role-play embraced through Slack, Cuddles the dragon at the ceremony, and the continuation of increasing BIPOC faces both in attendance, on panels, and receiving awards.
In my house, things went a bit sideways when (because the conference was run on Pacific Time in honor of its supposing to be held in person in LA) I just set my office clock to PT and referred to all times in PT to my husband so as not to mess up and miss my volunteer time slots. But my husband kept referring to ET, where we live–and lunch came at some truly strange times, let me tell you.
And how about that photo? That’s what happens when the universe leaks in through your Airship porthole!
I know this is a wayyyyyyy too short a summary of three days, but I’m still tired, still trying to get back to “regular life” in the wake of the conference chaos, and honestly, unless you were there, you won’t want to relive it with me. Just know it was fun and I hope I see you there next year.
Speaking of which…it’s still not too late to join the 2021 Nebula Conference! All the panels were recorded, and can be viewed from now through March 2022 when you have a membership. In addition, there will be ongoing Co-Writing Dates throughout the year, where you attend through Zoom, write for a period of time, then break to chat or get advice, then write some more. More words through peer pressure–but only with a membership. And you don’t have to be a SFWA member for any of this. If you just want to watch the awards ceremony, you can do that, too, right here.
I’m really excited to be attending the virtual Nebula Awards Conference again this year. Last year was so much fun! This year I’ll be volunteering, so you might see me working as a Door Dragon, letting people into the Zoom suite, as well as wandering around the various “rooms” in my off hours. And of course, in the various panels and panel chats! Can’t wait to watch the newest Grand Master, Nalo Hopkinson, in conversation with Tobias S. Buckell on all topics writing.
I just updated my Zoom app to the latest version, but I’ll check once more just before the conference begins–basically, if you don’t have the latest version, you might need to back out of the reception area, update the app, then re-enter, in order to have a fully functioning experience and move about on your own. So don’t forget this, okay? But the Door Dragons will remind you to update if you can’t see certain things; it’s our job 🙂
I’m super excited by this year’s nominees, especially for “Open House on Haunted Hill”, by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20), since John attended Viable Paradise with me. And over in the novelette category, there’s “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 5-6/20)–and she’s just a super wonderful person who happens to be in a small Slack group with me, and John, and a host of other super cool people! I’m so excited for each and every success of those in this tight-knit little group, and hope for many, many more in the future.
That’s it for now, peoples of the internets. Keep reading, keep writing, keep enjoying life!