Story sale!

I am very happy to announce that “A Remedy for Memory”, a short SF story about love and memory and the perils of mixing them together, will be in the July 2017 issue of Empyreome Magazine.

I love all my children equally … said the parent of one child (and this is true, she said, in Peter Sagal’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” voice). But in all earnestness, “A Remedy for Memory” represents something special to me, not least that I don’t know when to quit. I wrote my first version of this story back in 2009, and since then I’ve lost count of the number of times I revised or completely rewrote the piece. I was going to rewrite it again–I still have the outline in my Google Docs–if there were no takers this year. But I am beyond happy that someone does want it.

As for the story sitting in my revised outline, I still plan to write it, or something like it, one day. Like I said, I don’t know when to quit.

Worldcon Ho!

I bought a membership to Worldcon 2017 when they first became available, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to actually go. This is not a blog about finances, but it would misleading not to acknowledge that it imposes choices. I went through a very sudden, very expensive move in October-November 2016, and wasn’t sure whether I felt Worldcon was still worth it after the dust (and the books) settled from that.

I was still waffling until last week when a close friend, who is not generally given to Acts of Carpe Diem, announced that he was going to climb freaking Kilimanjaro next month. I’ve never been one to give in to peer pressure, but that was a challenge I couldn’t entirely ignore. Also, I’ve been feeling a bit in a rut lately, and this was a kick that I needed.

So I made some spreadsheets and then decided to go for it. Aside from the excitement and opportunities of Worldcon, I just want to see Helsinki! I also have very probably unrealistic dreams of doing some light hiking with my DSLR in tow.

I still haven’t decided how many days I’ll go for–in any case I can’t be there the entire time, my employer beckons–but I’m full of excitement and plans. Which is, if you will permit the cheesiness, my absolute favorite state of mind.

Fake Book Covers #1: The South Will Upload Again

In a conversation about writing motivation, I disclosed that my best One Weird Trick is designing fake book covers for my stories. Even if the story in question is 200 words long. I love it because for me, 1) graphic design is low-stress creative fun, and 2) covers are creative affirmation.

Naturally, Spousal Unit chose that moment to wander by and complain that I wasn’t presenting evidence for my claim. Well, designing my own covers is somewhat narcissistic, so I’m not going to release them. Everyone keeps a secret garden; those are buried in mine.

But fear not, I will do you one better.

A few years ago a friend of both myself and Spousal Unit emailed us with, “Hey you read a lot of SF. I once read this book and I can’t remember the title. Maybe you guys can help me find it? Here’s the plot …”

And my friends, it was amazing. Far superior to anything I have ever conceived.

“it’s in the southern us, and people are searching for a great general robert lee (but it turns out to be a chinese robert lee) w/ a chicken against central planners controlling an entrepreneurial computer personality that founded a rebellious transport company.”

So this was inevitable. I’m particularly proud of the gold bezel lettering.

Art credits: Robert E. Lee painting by Daniel Dos Santos / Spaceship is from Futurama by Matt Groening / Chicken is from The Curse of Monkey Island by LucasArts / Photoshopping was done by yrs truly

We sent it off to him with a note indicating a helpful librarian had located a candidate book and scanned the cover, could he confirm or deny that this was the right story?

He took it well, although to this day I remain convinced that it was all a dream. But hey, you never know, so hit me up.

The Annual Navelgazing Post, 2016 Edition

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions for their own sake. But the convergence of history and religion, at least in the U.S. where I live, has resulted in a nice string of vacation days leading up to the otherwise arbitrary event. And so around every New Year I an given a break from work, resulting in enough time to breathe and take stock of my life.

Usually this results in a few days of wallowing in all my failures of the year, followed by a few days of vowing to do better and scrambling to put systems in place to do so. This year was no exception, and my brain fixated on my fiction writing, which I didn’t work on as much as I would have liked in 2016.

The reasons aren’t all bad. Some of it was failure and procrastination and laziness. But I also burned the candle at both ends successfully developing my career in writing non-fiction. That job keeps my family fed and sheltered and warm, and I’m also pretty fond of it for its own sake. So I’m happy and proud of what I’ve accomplished in that arena.

Still, we all only have so many Action Points in a day. If nothing else, 2016 taught me to honor my limits. And I had to admit that I simply didn’t have the resources to spend as much time grinding at my fiction tech tree*. And that was okay. Everything builds on everything else, and what I did accomplish is not a waste. It’s only a waste if I forget what it’s all pointing towards.

So in 2017, my goal is to rekindle that love, commit to finishing more stories whether or not I submit them for publication, and in general rebuild the foundation (of love, and squee, and passions both dark and light) that drive me to tell stories.

*If it wasn’t already obvious, I view life as a mostly frustrating RPG.

Marble

There’s that famous quote from Michelangelo to the effect of he simply looks at a block of marble, sees what doesn’t belong, and chips it away.

For a long time I thought that was fluffy inspirational nonsense. And besides, he was a genius. I’m just an ordinary person, it has nothing to do with me.

But it turned out that I simply hadn’t had the experience before.

The revelation came with a particularly difficult story. I lost count of my revisions. But one day I reached a zenlike state where I suddenly was able to freely cut this line, delete that whole paragraph, ruthlessly prune a meaningful conversation. Previous stumbling blocks resolved themselves quietly.

It was because, as Chekhov put it, “everything suddenly became clear” to me and I knew exactly what the story needed.

I wonder how long it takes to get there, with every individual story. Can one reach it by grace, by luck, by experience, or does every piece extract a price? I suppose I will let you know in many more years.