Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

FF: Elsewheres

August 6, 2021
Roary Refuses to Hide

This week, all my reading material is set in places far away, whether in time or in space or in imagination. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  The “secret history’ in this novel comes from a combination of events in the lives of several of the most prominent figures in English literature, including Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Read this, and you’ll never read their poetry and fiction quite the same way…

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Uses some of the same themes as Akata Witch (the outcast who makes a virtue of her difference), but in a very different manner.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Again, similar themes and plot elements: outcast finds a high-tech artifact, but uses it (and other super abilities) for kind reasons, even if given ample reason for using it otherwise.

A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Realizing I got these out of order, I went backwards.

The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Thomas Warburton.  I don’t like Moominpapa nearly as much as Moomintroll (his son).  He has traits of ego and self-aggrandizement that make him much less appealing.

In Progress:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  Then, when Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson.  Translated by David McDuff.

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor. Audiobook. Just started.

Also:

As part of getting new e-book versions of my backlist up, I have finished re-reading Artemis Awakening and am now immersed in Artemis Invaded

FF: Still Rather Mythic

July 30, 2021
Persephone’s Stressful Regard

Looking at this list, I see my reading is quite mythic still.  The Moomin books may not be anyone’s official mythology, but they have that feelings nonetheless.  They’ve been my before bedtime reading because The Stress of Her Regard (which is excellent) was giving me nightmares! 

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.  Audiobook.  I don’t usually read two books by the same author at the same time, but someone failed to return my print copy of this one, and finding that there was an audio was tempting.  One complaint.  Accents are important in this, as if voice pitch, and, while the reader is good, he rarely gets these right.

The Valkyrie by Richard Wagner, translated and annotated by Frederick Paul Walter.  This new translation is lively and accessible.  Although I know the basic story, I found myself having trouble putting this down.  Illustrated both with modern line drawings and a host of archival material.

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Probably my favorite.  There’s a magical realism feeling I quite like.

In Progress:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  The “secret history’ in this novel comes from a combination of events in the lives of several of the most prominent figures in English literature, including Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Read this, and you’ll never read their poetry and fiction quite the same way…

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  So far, I’m liking…  Uses some of the same themes as Akata Witch (the outcast who makes a virtue of her difference), but in a very different manner.

A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Realizing I got these out of order, I went backwards.

Also:

I’m back to working on getting new e-book versions of my backlist up, and so re-reading Artemis Awakening

Mixed Impressions

July 28, 2021

“So, this is where the magic happens,” said a guest upon seeing my office for the first time.

I agreed, because I knew this was meant as a compliment about my writing.  Even then, though, I was thinking how, weirdly enough, my office is where the least magical part of my story creation is likely to happen.  My office, my desk, my computer, are just where the stories get written down.

Well, most of the time.  Actually, a lot of my stories start out handwritten because, as I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be a more direct channel between my imagination and a form of transcription when pen and paper is involved.

Where does the magic happen?

On the edge of falling asleep.  In the shower.  When weeding the garden.  Cooking.  Washing dishes.  Folding clothes.  Doing something crafty.  In the middle of a conversation, when something said sparks an idea…

I rarely have a magical creative moment when staring at the computer screen, willing myself to write.  On the other hand, I do set myself goals when working on a project.  An artistically poised dilletante is definitely not how I see myself.  I’m proud of the fact that I make deadlines, and that I work hard to make sure that I do.

Does this give you a mixed impression of what it’s like to be the writer that’s me?  If so, perfect!  I am nothing if not a suite of contradictions that come together to create stories.

I’m curious.  Where do your “magical moments” happen?  I’m definitely not restricting this to writing.  They might be related to some other art.  Or even something to do with your job or the classes you’re taking.  Inspiration belongs to all of us.

Oh!  The associated photo is of a goldfinch among the Russian Sage in our yard.  I thought the mingling of tiny bird and even more minute flowers had a definite impressionist feel.

FF: And Now

July 2, 2021
Baby Quail

In this photo, a baby quail marches happily across the gravel in our front area. You may need to look carefully, as he is not much bigger than the gravel!

This is one of the about a dozen chicks (featured with their dad in this week’s WW) who have been delighting me and Jim.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished the revisions to Aurora Borealis Bridge, the second of my forthcoming “Over Where,” series.  While I catch up on various and sundry jobs, I’m feeling a bit more ambitious about my reading.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayer.  My library doesn’t have this as an audio, so I pulled this one off my reading shelf.  Many people dislike because it’s “mystery light,” but I love the language, and the focus on the characters.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Poirot doesn’t appear until toward the end, making me wonder if Christie was encouraged to change a “stand alone” into a series book.  Either way, he does a good job.

In Progress:

Legion by Brandon Sanderson.  Audiobook.  Just started.  I rather like Sanderson’s opening author’s note.

The Quest for Theseus by A.G. Ward (editor and author).  A heavily illustrated (with photos of art, coins, etc.) look at how the myth/legend Theseus of Theseus evolved, and how different time periods seized on different aspects of the story.  Five authors contribute material, with Anne G. Ward contributing the bulk.  I’ve dipped into this, but never read cover to cover, and am looking forward to it.

Also:

Back issues of Smithsonian.  I’ve reached the current one, and enjoying, despite a very annoying misrepresentation of Albuquerque that implies it owed its relative stability to the arrival of the railroad, when it had been in place long before.

For Various and Sundry Reasons

June 16, 2021

This last week was one of those weeks when I’m glad that my work schedule includes scheduling time for the unexpected.

For various and sundry reasons that I will not bore you with, I had to get a new computer.  Let me reassure you that I lost no files that I can’t live without.  This situation qualifies as a major expense, as well as a major hassle that meant I didn’t have time, energy, or clarity of mind to write, even when most of my writing now is addressing editor’s notes for Aurora Borealis Bridge, the second of my two “Over Where” novels, which will be coming out Spring of 2022.

(The first of the two novels is Library of the Sapphire Wind.)

Throughout this process, I’ve had excellent IT support from my local ISP, which has once again earned my loyal support.

Last week I told you about the interview I’d be doing with David Barr Kirtley of Wired magazine’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast.  I’m happy to report it went very well, and I think was a lot of fun for us both.  It should be out later this week, and I’ll post the link here next week, as well as to the Friday Fragments, if I have it by then.

One thing the pandemic transformed was how science fiction and fantasy conventions reach their audience.  In 2020, several went virtual.  In 2021, several, including Bubonicon, New Mexico’s longest running (and often only) convention, will be virtual again.

However, one aspect of this change that can be beneficial for someone like me, for whom going to any convention other than Bubonicon entails a great deal of expense and travel time (even relatively “local” conventions like those in Arizona and Colorado involve hundreds of miles of driving), is that I’ve found myself invited to participate in conventions I otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.

Earlier this year, I did a panel and reading for Flight of Foundry, and this weekend I participated in the pre-recording of a panel about the forthcoming Space Western anthology, Gunfight on Europa Station, in which my story “Claim Jumped” appears, for LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m also hoping to do a reading, and it’s possible another panel, all of which would have been out of my reach a year ago. That said, as with in-person conventions, I’ll need to budget my time and energy, because virtual or not, panels take a lot of time and energy, and if I’m thinking about space westerns, I’m not thinking about whatever I’m writing. So, for various and sundry reasons, I didn’t do as much work on Aurora Borealis Bridge as I hoped to going into the week, but here’s hoping that this week is less filled with the unexpected, and more with the writing I love and find so very stimulating and inspirational.

I’m Writing

September 23, 2020

When Life Gives You a Brick

Today’s WW is going to be short because I’m writing.  Last week was insane.  Not all bad, just insane.  This week is going to have lots of interruptions.  Next week is going to be worse.

When the going gets tough, this writer gets writing.

Not everyone’s solution.  Not everyone’s way to cope.  But mine.

So, off to another land, one I hope to someday share with you all…

Take care!

Real Writer?

September 16, 2020

Desert Four O’Clock

Long ago, at an Armadillocon, I believe, I was talking to a gentleman who, himself a published writer of mystery fiction, was also teaching writing.  Since we shared similar backgrounds—both professional writers, both had taught writing at the college level—he confided in me.

“The longer I do this, the more I wonder if we’re doing any of these people a favor, acting as if we can teach them to write.”

The funny thing about this exchange was that, by “to write,” we both understood that what he—and most of his students—meant by “writing” was “write well enough, originally enough, to be published.”

More recently, I expressed a similar doubt.  The person I was talking to immediately objected, saying that while it was true that many people lack the vision or talent to produce publishable work, that didn’t mean they shouldn’t write.

I agree… If being able to monetize a skill is the only reason to learn to do it well, then no one should sing or dance or play an instrument.  Paints should stay in the bottle.  Sketch books should never be opened.  Clay should remain in the wrapper.  Beads in the tube.

Unhappily, this encouraging comparison only goes so far because the expectations a writer will face are very different.  I do not think every person who sings, dances, plays an instrument, does some sort of craft encounters what writers always do: the expectation that to be a real writer, that writer needs to be a published writer.

Even if the writer starts out writing for the pleasure, for the excitement and diversion of creating a story, the expectation is that to “really” write, the writer needs to also publish.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been part of some variation of this exchange, either as the subject or overhearing it.

“So, you write?  Are you published?”

If the answer is “No,” “Not yet,” or some variation thereof, the dismissal on the questioner’s face is usually visible.

Therefore, from an early time in pursuing writing, the writer comes to believe that it’s not enough to write and have the pleasure of writing, the writer must also publish.

Let’s go back to our imaginary dialogue.

“Oh!  You’re published!  That’s cool.  Where?”

When the writer replies, then the cycle of interrogation continues.  Short story writers are asked if they’re going to write a novel.  Novelists are asked who their publisher is (with various rankings for small press, traditional publishers, indie pub, academic press, literary press—rankings assigned by the questioner).

(And, believe me, no one can be snobbier than an academic press author who was paid in copies to a “genre fiction” writer who actually makes a living from writing.  But that’s another topic entirely.)

Even if the writer can jump all of these hurdles, the next criteria seems to be public recognition.

“Have I heard of you?”  or even “Are you famous?”

Many years ago, I decided to volunteer at my local library.  I like libraries and, at that time, I was spending too much time alone.  I signed up to shelf read. The very nice librarians welcomed me and asked, “What do you do?”  “I write books.”  “Are you published?”  “Yes.  My first novel came out in 1994 and I’ve had a couple out since.  I also have sold a fair number of short stories, and written some non-fiction.”

Nods and smiles.  Clear disbelief.  It wasn’t until I made a gift of several of my books (mass market paperbacks from an actual New York publisher) to the librarians that they accepted me as a “real” writer.  Having written didn’t do it.  Having published did.

Another example:

I have a good friend who is a talented writer.  When she sold her third professional short story, she was excited almost more because this was her third professional sale (thus qualifying her to join SFWA if she wished) than because she’d sold it to the much-acclaimed magazine Clarke’s World or even because the story was longer than Clarke’s World usually publishes.  Nonetheless, they liked it enough to pay her full rates for a long piece.

Writing is the only art/craft form I can think of where the highest compliment people think they can pay you is to say “Wow!  This would make a great movie/television show.”

What’s weirder is that most of those people would agree that novels and short stories can tell a more complex story than any movie or TV show.  What’s the difference?  Exposure and money.

True, with the appearance of sites like Etsy, more and more hobbiests are being urged to “monetize” their work, with the unspoken hint that not only will this help pay for materials, it will make them “real” (painters, beaders, jewelers, wood workers, whatever).

But writers have been dealing with this practically since the invention of the printing press.  Heck, for all I know, from before that.

The project I’m working on right now is not “pre-sold,” which has gotten me the sideways eyes from some people.  Worse (in terms of my perceived “reality), I might go the indie pub route with it.  (More sideways looks.)  Never mind that I have my reasons for possibly making that choice.  Never mind that (as anyone who has looked at Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul know) my quality control is very high.

Sigh.  I think I’ll just go write and leave the question of reality to other folks.

Pacing Oneself

September 9, 2020

You Don’t Need To Be In Motion To Be Racing

I’m not the first one to say it, nor will I be the last: Writing a short story can be a sprint, but writing a novel is more like a marathon.

For each, pacing is really important.  Last week, I wrote about how I found myself madly inspired by a short story idea, and  so wrote through my usual weekend off because I wanted to finish writing “Claim Jumped” while the inspiration was hot.

As soon as this was turned in, I pulled out the manuscript of a hobby project (working title is Library of the Sapphire Wind) that I’d been working on after Asphodel, through October of 2017.

I had to put Library of the Sapphire Wind on side because other projects had priority.  First, I got the rights back to the Firekeeper Saga and was now in a position to write the sequels I had wanted to write for years.  Then, as I was wrapping up Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, the contract with Baen Books for a continuation of the Star Kingdom series with David Weber was finalized, so SK4 had to be written.  Therefore, I reluctantly put my hobby project aside, roughly drafted at 150,000 words, but fully aware it needed further development.

During this time, I continued to put our new e-book editions of some of my backlist, including Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owl and all three of the “Breaking the Wall” novels (Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, and Five Odd Honors).

Now that I’m back to my hobby project, my enthusiasm is just as high as was when I was writing “Claim Jumped.”  In fact, because so much time has gone by, I’m in the midst of the delightful experience of reviewing with enough distance from the original writing that I feel almost as I do when re-reading a favorite novel.  I remember some bits, but others I’ve completely forgotten.  The urge to read to find out “what happens” (by which I mean, how a specific scene plays out) is very strong.

No matter how enthusiastic I feel, though, I’m reminding myself that at 150,000 words and growing (this project is likely to become two books, at least), I need to pace myself.  For me, that means not working through the weekend, as well as making time for hobbies and other creative outlets.

Aside: Ever since I got together with Jim, I’ve tried to take weekends off.  Losing Roger when I was thirty-two made it very clear to me at a relatively young age that one’s beloved may not always be with one.  Jim’s very supportive of my writing, but it’s important to me that he not feel imaginary people are more important than he is.

Also, I’ve learned that a few days of not actively working on a novel (although I do tend to think about the story throughout) actually makes me a better writer for the complexities involved in a multi-level storyline.  Craft time keeps my “front-brain” busy while my subconscious works on the story.

But, that said, I’m eager to get back to Library of the Sapphire Wind.  Catch you later!

Don’t Stuff Your Creativity in a Bag

September 2, 2020

Roary in a Bag

When the craft of writing is discussed, one of the points most likely to start an argument full of snooty opinions  and hot tempers is whether or not an author outlines a work in advance.

I’ve talked about this in in the past and, because I did a pretty thorough job defining terms then, I’m not going to repeat myself.  You can read it here. (Just skip the garden report.)  This Wandering is going to revisit the issue!

As I have said before, I definitely come in way over on the “intuitive” side of the sliding scale.  Honestly, I get bored if I know precisely how a story is going to work out.  Exploration along with my characters is what keeps me fresh.

But sometimes that exploration happens really, really fast.  When it does, well, I guess I could say I become one of those who outlines.

My recent slide over to the outlining side of the scale happened starting on August 21st.  I’d been offered a chance to write a story for a forthcoming “space western” anthology.  I’d tossed a few ideas into my subconscious, then pretty much left them alone while I worked on finishing the manuscript of SK4 (the fourth volume in the Star Kingdom series I’m writing with David Weber).  I handed the manuscript over to Weber on the afternoon of August 19th and was looking forward to a bit of a break before facing the next deadline.

However, Thursday night, the story started bubbling forth with so much energy I had trouble sleeping.  Friday morning, I started writing.  By Friday afternoon, I had 3,500 words.  That’s something over fourteen pages.

But here’s the interesting point, at least for me.  Usually I write complete scenes in the order they happen.  The one exception to this is when I’m writing more than one point of view.  Then I may write portions separately and intercut, although I rarely do that too far in advance in the plot.   This, however, was a short story with one point of view character.

As I was writing the opening, I suddenly “saw” the next scene. So, after I’d written as much on the opening as I needed to make sure I wouldn’t lose my sense of what was happening, I jumped ahead to scene two.  As I was writing scene two, the same thing happened.  So—after writing the establishing elements—once again, I jumped ahead.  This went on for hours.  By the time I finished, those 3,500 words were more or less an extremely annotated outline.

I don’t usually write on weekends but, apprehensive about losing this amazing inspiration, I wrote on both Saturday and  Sunday, fleshing out various scenes.  Far from getting bored, my creativity was fully engaged, I suspect because the pace kept me from thinking and re-thinking story elements.

I finished the story on Tuesday, bringing it in at something over 8,000 words.  Wednesday, I proofed, tightening up and polishing my hurried prose.  Wednesday afternoon, Jim started his read-through.  I went through and corrected the typos he found.  Then, on Thursday, I sent a copy of the story to my good pal, Paul, who loves both Westerns and SF.

Paul sent the story back to me by Friday morning with some good comments.  Once again, I polished, then sent the 8,000 word story, now titled “Claim Jumped,” off to the editor.

So, what’s the takeaway from this experience?

As I see it, it’s “Don’t get so invested in your image of yourself as a writer that it gets in the way of your writing.”  As I noted in the WW referenced above, there are a lot of people who get very superior about being “intuitive” or equally superior about “planning,” and sneer at those who write differently.

What’s important isn’t how you write, it’s that you write, as well as that, as I did in this instance, you feel invigorated and invested while you’re doing it.

Now, off for that break which—if I’m completely honest—seems to involve writing as well.

FF: Taking It Easy?

August 28, 2020

“Hold Still, Mei-Ling! You Will Get Your Picture Taken!”

I was going to take time off last week to celebrate completing  a draft of SK4.  But a short story galloped into my imagination so instead I ended up writing right through the weekend.  Anyone want to place bets as to whether I figure out how to unwind this coming week?

Remember to join us for free at Virtual Bubonicon this Saturday.  Convention website is here.  Information on the panel I’m on is in this week’s WW.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Maddigan’s Fantasia by Margaret Mahy.  Excellent.  Post-apocalyptic magical realism with both science and magic, and a protagonist who, while annoying at times, is worth rooting for.

DreamForge Magazine, issue six.  I very much enjoyed.

In Progress:

Dark Whisper by Bruce Coville.  Third book in the Unicorn Chronicles. Audiobook.  I’m almost done, but writing cut into my listening time.

Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt.  A re-read, impulse chosen because I felt like smart humor.  This book contains the single funniest and yet oddly sensible summary of Wagner’s Ring Cycle ever.

Also:

Archeology Magazine, finishing one in time for the next to show up!