publication, Writing

Announcement and Cover Reveal

I’m part of a group of writers who were all Finalists or Semi-Finalists in the Writers of the Future contest. For the past couple of years, one member has volunteered to edit an anthology of members’ work. This year, Robert B. Finegold has turned up the volume a notch (IMO), and I am truly, truly pleased to show you the beginnings of his hard work:

Cover art by Lou Harper
Coming this 2017 holiday season


An anthology of 14 tales of wonder by award winning authors, finalists, and semi-finalists (e.g. Writers of the Future, Hugo, Cambell, Aurealis, and others). This year’s collection of science fiction and fantasy stories from these impressive new talents:

Introduction: Back and Foreword———– Robert B. Finegold, MD
The Memory of Huckleberries ————— Rebecca Birch
The Temptation of Father Francis ———- Nick T. Chan and Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
The Waiting Room —————————- Philip Brian Hall
Last Time For Everything ——————– K. L. Schwengel
Skinners —————————————- Rachelle Harp
Amma’s Wishes ——————————- M. E. Garber
Three Flash ———————————— Dustin Adams
A Green Tongue —————————— Frank Dutkiewicz
A Matter For Interpretation —————– M. Elizabeth Ticknor
The Root Bridges of Haemae ————— Sean Monaghan
Red is the Color of My True Love’s Hair — William Wood
Bad Actors ————————————- Julie Frost
In the Heart of the Flesh ——————– Scott Parkin
Shattered Vessels —————————– Kary English and Robert B.Finegold, MD

My story within the anthology, Amma’s Wishes, you may recognize as my reprint from Sword & Sorceress a couple years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it in this fine company, and I encourage you to do so. I’ll talk more about his later, but let me just say that if you’re writing for WOTF, this (and the earlier volumes) might well be something to read for comparison’s sake. Just now, I’m too excited!

I’ve been keeping this one under my hat for awhile, and it’s been kind of tough, having seen the mock-ups and early layout for the covers, etc. But it’s getting closer, and the official reveal has just happened…now, for the wait. (bounces eagerly) So pretty! So lovely! It’ll make a great holiday gift, won’t it? So pretty! So lovely! Just, um, if you’re on my gift buying list, pretend you didn’t read that last bit, okay?

Personal Life, Viable Paradise, Writing

Dasher’s Birthday


Yesterday we celebrated Dasher’s birthday. He’s now unofficially (since we have no idea of his actual birth date) one year old, and no longer a puppy. Don’t tell him that, though. He still acts crazy and playful as the day we brought him home.

How did we celebrate? With a ball at the field and plenty of water to cool off with, a canine cupcake, a long walk with both his people, and lots and lots of playing. He slept really, really well–both in the afternoon and all night long! 🙂

Today it’s back to the same old routine–morning walk, then Mary writes while Dasher bounces a toy into her leg until she tosses it.  Uh-huh, so conducive to writing–NOT! Eventually he gives up and naps, and I get some actual words on the page. I’m writing on the novel, and editing up a couple short stories, bouncing between one project and another as my brain hits various walls. So far, it’s working.

Last week I wrote out the final steps of the outline for my novel. You know, those last few bits, how that confrontation will play out, exactly, and the final acts as well. How does the novel say “goodbye” to the reader, what is the final scene, the last line, the last glimpse. It felt strange to write that, even in “outline” form. It was a combination of wonderful, liberating, and unsettling. As much as I’ve groused about this becoming the novel that will not end, I can see the ending clearly, and I’m…feeling a little nostalgic about it. Ye-eah, how crazy is that?

Friday I got to help a fellow VP 17er play with her novel, trouble-shooting the outline in a couple areas to find plausible ways through the plot. It was a whole lotta fun to throw trouble at someone else’s characters, to make it as hard as possible for them, and to make journeying through the plot believable without being too easy, or without other ripple-effect changes swaying it off-course. It also opened my eyes to how to do that to my own, dear characters–pretend they’re not mine and have at it!

Which is another reason that, if you haven’t already, you should be considering applying to Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop.  The most-reduced applications are through March 31st, but you can apply until the June 15th deadline, for this fall’s weeklong workshop.

That’s about all the news here. Writing is happening. Stay warm if you’re in the snowy northlands. Why not write a story set in the tropics to warm up?

signal boosting

Signal Boosting: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

Alex Shvartsman is running a Kickstarter for his upcoming short-story anthology. Unlike the UFO series that he edits,  this collection, titled Explaining Cthulh to Grandma and Other Stories, is all his own work.

I know Alex–he’s a heck of a nice guy. He’s also a really good writer. If you like humor, especially quirky humor, you’ll love his work. If you like military-themed SF, you’ll like his work. If you like “giant alien, telepathic spiders that sing,” you’ll like his work! And Ken Liu will be writing the introduction, and I don’t know too many people who wouldn’t like that!

$10 nets you an e-book, $20 a physical book, and $25 a signed book. Check out the Kickstarter page for other amazing  backer levels. And help Alex pay for his sacrificial goat, if you can. 😉

Reading, Writing

Ask and You Shall Receive?

In my last post, I mentioned that I haven’t done any new slush reading this year, and that I kind of missed it. The head of Writers of the Weird put me in touch with someone needing a short-term slush reader for a themed anthology. Viola! I’m reading slush. (Thanks again, Phil!)

Sometimes, it really is who you know. And what you’re seeking, too.

It’s not raw slush, mind you, but items plucked out after an initial first read, so I’m being spared the terribly dreadful stuff. But it’s definitely insightful. Why did that story just not grab me? And why did that one appeal more over the other, especially since both have a similar theme-vein running through them? Was it a better hook at the opening, or a stronger resolution? Did one have a fuller character arc, or was one simply too predictable?

Predictability is a tough one. What one person thinks is shiny and new, another reader finds old and worn-out. Part of that is how far and widely they’ve read within a genre, of course. But other things come into play, as well. Age of the reader/writer, outside-the-genre reading, even exposure to other media forms–all can play a part in what we “expect” to happen.

I recently watched the movie “Freedom Writers.” In it, a high-school girl from a very rough neighborhood is given a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. She hasn’t read much of anything in her life. The girl, Eva, is furious at the end of the book, when it’s revealed that Anne Frank died. In her world, real people die, but in movie-land, the hero always lives–usually happily ever after. So much for those expectations. (The movie, an older one, is really spectacular, BTW. It shows the true power of the written word, and its lasting value. I recommend it!)

Still, you don’t want endings that just pop out of nowhere, either. It has to be foreshadowed somehow, so that in the end, the resolution of the problem seems logical, and probably like the only solution, too. Or at least the best solution.

And (for me), worst of all is the Deus ex Machina ending. In this one, someone jumps in and solves the problems for the players on stage, letting all be well in the world through no effort of the involved parties. Arrgh! These cheat our protagonists out of solving their own problems and out of the growth that comes from the pains of problem-solving.

All in all, endings are tough, and good endings are tougher still. Like now. This is a terrible ending for this post.

Viable Paradise, Writing Workshops

Overflowing Bubbles: I Feel Like Champagne

A Champagne Cheers!

I am so excited! And happy! And nervous, and … wait, let me just tell you the amazing news: I’ve been accepted at Viable Paradise. I’m going to be a member of the class of XVII (or 17, for those who’ve left Rome behind)!

Viable Paradise is a week-long “neo-pro” writing workshop held in October on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. There will be 24 of us students (who I’m already getting to know on the Yahoo forum) tentatively arriving to learn, socialize, and grow as writers. And I’m to be one of them! I still can barely believe it.

I already have a room, and a roommate (who eats gluten-free!), and have found two other gluten-free/celiac students among the group! We’re now the Gliadin Liberation Front (thanks, Michael!). I also have train tickets from NJ to Boston, and am mentally packing my bags. (Those bags will be so packed by the time mid-October rolls around!)

All weekend long (before I could come clean in public), I was doing little bubbly dances inside. I felt like a glass of champagne, all bubbles fizzing up and up and up, in an unending euphoria. And then, just when the bubbles settle down and all felt normal, something would ting the edge of my glass, and the bubbles would prove they’re still there, still spouting that euphoria throughout. For instance? In the grocery store, I went by the little pre-made Indian meals and got shivers of delight as I realized that I’d be taking some of those along for quick lunches. (Yes, how silly is this, but still…)

So, if you’ve been there and care to drop any hints here, feel free. And if you drop hints about The Horror that is Thursday, I’ll be sure to keep it quiet. Honest. 😉

Until then, it’s back to writing. A short story rejection came in over the weekend, and I need to ship that story back out again, and then finish the one I’m writing now, and then edit, and …  (smiles. Ah, VP in October  :-))

Personal Life, Write 1/Sub 1, Writing Workshops

Splatter Mode

I’ve not posted on schedule for a while. It seems I’m still in “splatter mode,” where I squirt bits of effort here, there, and everywhere, but don’t see much progress in any one area, including this blog. So, here’s an update.

I have six submissions out right now, meaning I’m on track with that. For a long while, I could only keep five going at once. I’ve had six since last week, and have a few more stories nearing completion. By the end of the month, I may actually exceed my “submissions at any given moment” goal! (However, I’ll not be the one to complain if this is foiled by an acceptance or three 😉 )  Also, last week was a “Submit” week, so that submission is working double-duty for me.

I’ve also been running full-tilt with critiquing others’ works lately. A crit group met last week, so there were four stories to critique. I wanted to post another story at OWW, so that meant I needed to have 4 points to do that (1 pt = 1 story crit), and I’m taking an online class, which had a story by another classmate up for crit last week! Whew! No wonder my fresh word count was down.

I’m very, very thrilled to have snagged a seat in Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Weekend of Short Story Instruction” intensive class (now sold out, sorry)! It’s to be held online in mid-July. Here’s the pitch:

Think you never have time to write? Think again. Mary Robinette Kowal wrote her first Hugo-nominated short story “Evil Robot Monkey” in ninety minutes. If you have ninety minutes, you can have a story — all it takes is understanding how to make every word work double-time. In this workshop, learn the same techniques she uses to create new fiction. Through exercises focusing on viewpoint, dialogue, and plot, you’ll learn how to let nothing go to waste. By the end of this three day workshop, participants will be given a writing prompt and complete their own short story.

And finally, I’m waiting with bated breath for a month from now, when I’ll know if I’ve been accepted or not into Viable Paradise (not, as hubby thought I was saying, Bible Paradise!). After lately discovering that they are more than able to cope with my dietary restrictions (no glutens! no gluten contamination!), I sent in my application piece, fee, and short bio. Now I hope, and lurk their boards . . .

This is a “Write” week. I hope to finish a story I started earlier, and also to edit another story in light of critiques received. Yes, there I go again, confusing “writing” and “editing.” But when I burn out on one, I can often hop to the other and not feel so wrung out. Which brings me right back to splatter. Ugh. But no! Really, this week, it’s all about the writing, first and foremost. The editing comes after. I am focused. I really, really am!

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Uncategorized, Writing

The Tracks of Progress

footsteps 02The Sidekicks! release party at Millenicon seems to have been a huge success–the publisher ran out of copies to sell, and had to “borrow” author’s copies to appease the crowd’s appetite for purchasing! Oh how I wish I’d been there!!!

Here in NJ, I’m writing and editing away in seclusion (sigh), coming up for air to look for nearby writing crit groups, which seem to be elusive things that wriggle away from search engines. I’m also dealing with the unhappy fact that W1S1 won’t let me post comments anymore. For some strange reason, it seems to have logged me in under some unknown Blogger account–if you’ll notice, this is a WordPress site–and I can’t for the life of me understand how or why (I’ve never had a Blogger account!). I also don’t know the password of my unknown Blogger account, which is the tricky bit. Sigh again.

Nonetheless, I’ve done pretty well lately, getting back into the swing of writing after the disruption of the move. A couple stories are now complete (in first draft form) and a couple more are nearing the end of editing–which is why I’d really like that crit group about now. A few have been subbed, a few more re-subbed. After they came home crying, I patted their backs, combed their sentences with tender fingers and sent them out to play again. A hopeful smile dusted my lips as I watched them run off into the sunlight, eager once more.

But a couple got shuffled off into the “trunked texts” file. Despite whatever charms those possess (that stuff which made me write them), I see their glaring flaws. Those dear stories no longer hold the allure they once had. I’ve moved on, they haven’t. I don’t despise them; they made me learn and grow as a writer, and I had to go there in order to make it here. But their time in the submission pile is at an end. It’s a sad thing, but also a happy one, for it means I’m improving. Seeing your own works’ flaws–to me, this is the ultimate test of growth. Like so many worthwhile things, it’s bittersweet once you grasp what it really means.

Writing, Writing Workshops

(More) Relief!

My first story crit with the Cajun Sushi Hamsters was last week Sunday. I uploaded my story early, before my bravery died — it’s hard to bleed on the page then put that grief on the line with ‘the big dogs’ for the first time. That’s how it felt to me.

The story is the one that hit me the first time I walked on the bridle trails after my dog died. (Read about that in this post.) It took a long while to write since so much of it was close to me: dogs, death, heartache and bittersweet joys. And I wanted to get it ‘just right,’ in memory of my beloved dog. I also didn’t want to look like a complete goober in front of my new writing group.

It was the first story of the night, and you can imagine my tension as I wondered, feared, expected … who knows what? Was it a mess of over-wrought emotions? Did the story even work? Would they hate it? Yes, even now, I have those fears. I have, though, managed to choke them down and listen to the wiser part of me that knows I need the clear-eyed criticisms of well-meaning professionals to make my stories the strongest they can be. Especially stories like this one, which hovers so close to my heart.

The short of it is, they liked it. Everyone offered ideas on how to make it stronger, better and more salable. But the story as it stood made most of them cry, as they themselves reported. That made me weak-kneed and giddy; I made these people cry! These writers. Cried. At my story. What a sense of awe.

And relief, as now I know a bunch of ways to make it better. They helped me find things I sensed were missing, suggested how to add them. They helped me find things I hadn’t thought of, bits that are pure genius. And they pointed out things to drop or to change, things that just aren’t working. Finally they pointed out what was good, what not to change. Not all the suggestions are compatible with all the others, but that’s were my judgement comes back into play.

While I ponder these ideas before more editing, more relief: my hubby is back home after three weeks away. Three weeks doesn’t sound long, but it was. It makes me wonder how the various Clarionites and Odyssiers manage six weeks. Even so, I’m hoping I find out. 🙂