food, Nature, Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing

When Life Gives You Cracked Plums…

…make Jam!

The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.

That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”

In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.

Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.

Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)

publication, Taos Toolbox, Writing, Writing Workshops

Galaxy’s Edge now available free online!

That’s right, starting with this January 2018 issue–which just so happens to contain my story After the Story EndsGalaxy’s Edge Magazine is available free online for your reading pleasure. I recommend you hop over to their site, read not only my story but the other great works online there, and tell others, too. I love this story. It’s one of my very favorites of the things I’ve written, and I would love as many eyes on it as possible. (Scroll down in the orange table of contents box to get to my story; it’s right after the one by Kij Johnson.)

Okay, now for a little bit behind the story. Are you ready for this? After the Story Ends was written for a contest. That’s right–the title was given to me in a contest over on the Codex forums, and I had to write a story to match that title. I got to choose my own title from a huge long list of possibilities, and I scrolled through so many of them, seeking ‘the one.’ Many were often wonderful titles–ones I’d like to read, even–but I couldn’t see myself writing those stories. So I kept scrolling along, and along, and along.

Then I saw this one. It immediately called to me. After the story ends, what? So often, stories end with the “happily ever after.” But I’ve always wanted to know what occurs when that wears off, when you’re no longer the hero of the moment, but just another oddball to the folks around you. The return from fairy lands came from the beginning, and after that, it just rolled right along. But the story wasn’t done yet!

I subbed this to the Writers of the Future contest, where it garnered me Finalist–much to my utter shock! When I’d subbed it, I was sure–utterly, totally sure–that this just wasn’t going to be Dave’s ‘thing.’ So when the Finalist announcements were delayed, I wasn’t worried. I mean, I was totally sure that my story would be another late Honorable Mention, maybe a Semi-Finalist if I was really lucky.

This was the year that I attended Taos Toolbox, and I even had this very discussion with one of my roommates as I pondered whether I should use this story as my week two re-write. I mean, I knew I liked it, and I thought it was pretty good–but I knew it could be better. So, I edited it, and submitted it for critique during week two. And that’s where things get really weird.

There at Taos, Nancy Kress gave me probably the most influential line edit of my life. She pointed out every place in this story where I pushed too hard emotionally, using a two-by-four instead a whisper, where I told instead of showed, or worse, did both in turn, and where my emotions contradicted one another from line to line. She and Walter Jon Williams, and my classmates, helped me take this story from “pretty good” to “great.” My classmates’ enthusiasm and the instructors’ teaching propelled me to rewrite the story again, becoming this version you’re reading in Galaxy’s Edge as the result.

And then, I came home and got “the call” from Joni Labaqui at the WotF Contest. It was the day after I arrived home from Taos, and I still wasn’t over that experience, or recovered from the long trip home. And I swear, right until she said “Finalist,” I thought she was calling to tell me my story had been misplaced, or that I’d gotten an HM but the announcement had gotten misplaced…and a tiny part of me wondered why she’d bother calling someone for that.

So, after I hung up and picked myself up off the floor, I was in a daze. An hour later, I was in a mild panic. I’d looked up on the website to see who judges the Finalist stories, you see, and found Nancy Kress’s name there. I hadn’t thought about it at all while at Taos, but the stories are supposed to be completely anonymous. Sure I’d forfeited my spot, I called Joni the next day and told her Nancy had seen my story already–no problem, she said. And relief washed through me so fiercely my legs nearly gave out and I had to sit once again.

In the end, the story as I’d subbed it to WotF didn’t place in the top 3, so it didn’t become a Winner. While part of me was sad, at least I no longer had to worry about somehow exchanging the improved story for the original. And now the improved story is published in Galaxy’s Edge, a home where I’m very pleased to join the ranks of published authors. Win all around.

All that from a title found in a contest.

(Oh, and did you see–Taos Toolbox is open to submissions for this summer’s session…)

publication

EEEEE! It’s Here!

The latest issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine has my name on the cover, and my story, “After the Story Ends,” published within its pages! Wait, did you read that right? MY NAME IS ON THE COVER–along with the big names of Joe Haldeman, Kij Johnson, Mercedes Lackey, Orson Scott Card, and an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold! I recognize the other names printed around mine, too, and they’re all great writers that I’m thrilled to be rubbing shoulders with. This is just an amazing way to head into the holidays–like getting a bonus gift of squee!

Not only that, but there’s more: Arc Manor is running a Christmas special until the end of the year. You can buy this January 2018 issue electronically for only $1.99! Click the link here for that special price, valid only until December 31. After that,  the normal $4.99 price returns.

Happy Holidays, everyone! And a Happy Reading-filled  New Year!

 

Personal Life, the dog, Writing

What? December? How?

Okay, so today I flopped the calendar page over and thought, “Gee, I just did this last week for November, didn’t I?” Obviously not. And yet, there is always something of a rush to the final months of the year, isn’t there? This year has been no exception.

First of all, I added to the chaos by signing up for a “Nearly NaNo” challenge with some of the folks I attended Taos Toolbox with two years ago. “Nearly” in that no, I didn’t want the insane 50,000 wordcount looming over me with everything else going on this month. But I do know that I normally slack off in November and December, so I wanted to push through those early writing doldrums. I decided on 20,000 words for a target, and 25,000 for a stretch goal. And, thanks to the accountability/challenge of the Google doc we kept for our daily wordcounts, I met my stretch goal! Woooo!

(To celebrate, yesterday I started work on a new short story. Ummmmm, I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work…)

With 10 days to go, the 3rd & Starlight Kickstarter is 68% funded! And did you notice that now, at the $70 EVERY HERO NEEDS ONE level, you’ll get a signed paperback copy of SIDEKICKS!, an anthology about (duh) the sidekick, edited by Sarah Hans and published by Alliteration Ink. SIDEKICKS! contains my story, “Worthy,” which is the page I’ll be signing for you. The level also includes paperback versions of 3rd & Starlight, 2nd & Starlight, and 1st & Starlight, as well as ebook versions of all three Starlight books! What a deal! But we’re not there yet, so please fund us and tell your friends! (And did you see that while not a reward yet, an audiobook for everyone who funds at $25 and above if the Kickstarter goes over the Kickstarter Goal is in the works…)

Of course, the dog didn’t idly sit by while all this was going on. No, of course not! My dog would never do that. He decided to break off a bit of his marrow bone, break that into smaller bits, and swallow them. Which resulted in his going to the emergency vet over the Veteran’s Day weekend for emergency endoscopy, where they went down his throat and pulled the bits out. Nothing like a bit of excitement while trying to focus, is there? I’m happy to report that the very next day, Dasher was running around like nothing had happened–which, for him, nothing had. He’d slept through the whole thing!

Meanwhile, the holidays are ramping up into full swing. This weekend we’re setting up our decor and lights, indoor and out. Cards have been written and are being mailed in bits and bobs, dribs and drabs, so as not to overwhelm the mail carrier all at once. Some gifts have even been purchased! Before you know it, I’ll be back here with a summary of the year that was 2017.

But not now, not yet. I have more days to go, and more writing to do. And a dog who will only get tennis balls, not marrow bones, to keep him busy.

publication, Writing

Looky-Look–New & Shiny & Available to Fund!

Remember awhile back when I mentioned a story of mine would be in the forthcoming anthology, 3rd & Starlight? Well, that anthology is one step closer to fruition. The Kickstarter launched today.

In order to help recoup costs in putting this marvelous beautiful book together, our editor (and have I mentioned how wonderful our editor has been with all of this? Just look at this Kickstarter–it’s all his work there, too!) put together this Kickstarter that runs from today through December 12th. I wouldn’t wait until the final days to back this, not if you’re looking at any of those lovely extra backer rewards. I’m pretty sure they’ll be going fast, since they’re so awesome. I mean, just look at them–artwork, story critiques, extra books, subscriptions. Here you have a great opportunity to not only read this lovely anthology, but to also get an extra wonderful bit of your choosing at the same time.

Yet all isn’t lost if you can’t back right away! Let’s just say that more offers may be added as time goes along… 🙂

Oh, and did you look all the way at the bottom of the Kickstarter text? Way, way down there, where it indicates that if you donate at $25 or above you just might get a free audiobook version of this, as well?!? I mean, how awesome is that!

PS — I’ll let you thank me now for refraining from commenting that the holidays are fast approaching and that this would be a fantastic gift for any reader of speculative fiction. I’m just that way. 😉

publication, Reading, What I'm Reading

Because We’re All Readers First, Right?

I love reading. If you’re reading this blog, chances are good you do, too.

So I’m excited to link to a new place to check out for your short fiction fixes. Curious Fictions is an online venture meant to help readers connect with previously published short fiction you might have missed. It’s a place to meet your next “favorite writer,” and maybe your next “favorite magazine.” At Curious Fictions, you’ll be able to sample magazine offerings, and find the writers they publish. Then you can go subscribe to those magazines you love–those you’ve previously hesitated to pay for, not knowing if you’d like them or not.

(Need some suggestions to get started? How about reading Sylvia Spruck Wrigley? Or Wendy Nikel? Or perhaps Effie Seiberg‘s story, Dinkley’s Ice Cream–I love that one!)

Curious Fictions is a work in progress. It’s new, and the person behind it is still tweaking the format, the page, the functions. New work is always arriving, and new readers–well, of course new readers are always welcome.

Some of my work is there, of course. But I encourage you to not read my stories (or, not just mine), but to try out some of the others. There are tons of great writers you haven’t read yet. Give one a try over at Curious Fictions, won’t you? And tell your friends. Writers need readers.

publication

More About “3rd and Starlight”

Our intrepid editor, Dr Robert B Finegold, just gave us the A-OK to continue with the goodies about the forthcoming “3rd & Starlight” anthology, and gave us links to his Facebook page with his official announcement. So, without further ado, here is my update.

Now, at long last, I can let the cat out of the bag. I can squee loudly and long–not only that gorgeous cover, but now, interior illustrations! And the example given is from my very own offering, Amma’s Wishes! I am gobsmacked. Astounded. And very, very pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, the interior graphic design promises to be just as lovely. Here’s an image, and a quote direct from the boss’s mouth:

“…and what a beautiful volume it will be!

Drop caps for the start of each story, special characters for section breaks (“rocket” for science fiction and “starlight” – of course – for fantasy)… Here’s just a peek from the Introduction.

…AND (*fanfare*), each story is ILLUSTRATED by the multi-talented M. Elizabeth Ticknor! 🙂

All the preceding enhancements will be present in BOTH the ebook and the print editions. Our ebook is not treated as a poor second in the care placed in its beauty of its design. Our CInderella will truly be the belle of the ball.

And there is still more to come!”

That last line, did you catch it? Yes, there will be more  (very good) news to come. Stay tuned! I can’t wait to share it with you.

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:

3RD AND STARLIGHT
anthology
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:

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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?