Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Between Breaths

So between assorted illnesses and drama at the Day Job and a recurring (or perhaps persistent) exhaustion, this wasn't my best writing week.

But I did answer an interview for the Literate Libran to go along with a review she's going to do of Safe Harbor. I'm not sure when that's going to go up, but I'll be sure to let you know when it does -- and you should definitely check it out, because she'll be holding a contest for some swag!

I did get an inspiration for a new story for Torquere's new "Weird Science" submission call and wrote a thousand words or so for it. It's not due until June, but the plot bunnies who nibble my toes are the ones who get picked up and petted. (And if it doesn't work for the anthology, I'm pretty sure it'll stand alone.)

But for those of you playing along at home, that's technically three active Works in Progress: Foxfur, The New Story Which Has Yet To Be Titled, and my Weird Science submission. I really need to pull it together and start actually... you know. Writing.

Alas, I don't see this week being much better. The Day Job is completely kicking my behind (what is up with them expecting me to do things???), the daughter's school is doing a bizarre and inexplicable week of half-days and days off that accompany the end of the semester, and I've got several different editing jobs waiting in the wings, two of which are on tight deadlines. Whee!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Con Report: Writing

God, I love that corset.
I was at MarsCon, and I had a blast. Got to hang out with my best friend that I don't see nearly often enough, and took my kids to some fun family programming (it's important to properly indoctrinate the young geek), and then shipped the kids off to a babysitter so I could enjoy some adult programming.

I attended a writer's workshop that I've been dying to attend for years, but has never meshed well with my schedule. This year, it still didn't mesh well, being right across lunch, but I decided the Hubs could manage the kids well enough for one meal and that I could put my own meal off for an hour or so, and Just Did It. I'm sure glad I did.

The assignment was: In ten minutes, write the first draft of the first paragraph (100 words, give or take) of a brand new short story. In that 100 words, you need to: establish your setting; introduce your character and give us some hints about who they are; present a problem (not necessarily the main plot problem, but something to create immediacy); and provide a hook so that the reader will want to keep going.

Everyone present was required to participate; there was no passive audience allowed. We all wrote our paragraphs, and then the panel -- all professional writers and editors, except the lead moderator's (adult) daughter, who he introduced as the most critical reader he knew -- listened to us read them aloud and gave us suggestions for improvement.

It sounds harsh, and it was, a bit. I'm glad I didn't attempt this before I'd gotten serious about being published. I might even be glad I didn't attempt this before I'd been published, because while they were continually reminding us that this was a first draft and first drafts always suck, they did not pull a lot of punches. On the other hand, one of them said one of the nicest and coolest things about my little paragraph ever: "There was something in every single sentence I wanted to ding you for, but somehow you made it all work."

In case you're wondering, here's my rough draft, exactly as I wrote it:
Timothy dashed down the street, cursing nonstop under his breath. How many impossible situations could a man find himself in before breakfast, anyway? An angry warlord at the gates, a missing high mage, and now, an amorous dragon! Timothy windmilled his arms and skip-jogged a few steps as he careened around the corner onto High Street, trying to decide which situation warranted top billing at his briefing with the prince... For which he was late.
Other helpful comments included the suggestion that editors aren't taking a lot of high fantasy any more, that cursing under your breath while running is not really that feasible, and that if I proceed from this action-packed opener to a boring dialogue meeting with the prince, the reader will feel let down and I'll lose them.

Unfortunately, I have no idea at all where the story goes from there. But I'll stick it into my Ideas folder and maybe something will hatch eventually.

I got almost as much out of listening to the other participants' openers and thinking about what I'd say if I was on the panel, and seeing if my comments matched up at all with the panelists'. It was a fascinating exercise, and I definitely want to do it again next year. I'm only sad that I didn't get to do the Part Two workshop the next day, where you bring in your edited draft and see how much they've all improved.

Though I think my favorite moment came when the woman next to me read her piece, and the panel moderator said that it sounded like a great concept but that he didn't write erotica so he didn't know how useful his advice would be... and the woman got a completely horrified look on her face and insisted that it was not erotica! (How horrible would I be if I threw her idea into my folder and did use it for erotica, somewhere down the line? It really did sound like a great notion; it would be a shame to let it languish unused.)

That evening, I went to a panel on GLBT in speculative fiction, moderated by JM Snyder, Michael O'Brien (aka Mikhail Borg), and Helen Madden (aka Cynical Woman). (Michael showed us his website, but I've forgotten the URL and can't seem to find it, so the link goes to his Twitter. The Twitter profile links to his seldom-used LiveJournal instead of the professional site he'd showed us.)

I'd met JM before, at the Roanoke Pride festival, and she happened to come in a little while before the panel started, so I enjoyed a few minutes chatting with her about things before it all got started. The panel itself was great -- more a moderated discussion than simple Q-and-A.

When that was over, there was another panel, "Not if you were the last person on earth: repopulating after an apocalypse." That was fun, too -- it was, essentially, a group exercise in world-building and trying to take all the factors into account when you're creating a fictional scenario, and there's very little I love about writing more than the world-building, so I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the woman in the audience who would not shut up.

And after that, there was a reading from four erotica authors. The room had cleared out completely after the Repopulating panel, though, and for a while there it looked like it was going to be four authors and me, and we were just talking about random stuff. But finally another person came in, so they read to us, and by the time the second was almost done, the room was completely packed (though some of the audience was drunk and couldn't stop giggling.) But it was still great fun, and I enjoyed chatting with the other audience member for a while -- gave her the copy of the "Sound Mind" freebie I had with me, and my card, and she promised to give it a read and pass it on to friends who might like it.

I left out several free copies of "Sound Mind" and a bunch of flyers and cards for Safe Harbor, and quite a few of them got picked up, so I'm hoping at least a few of those people will drop by and check me out!

I already can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I don't know if I'm still coming back from the stress of the holidays, or if I'm fighting a cold, or what, but all I want to do lately is play low-mental-effort games and sleep. So I haven't done a lot of writing in the last week.

I did, however, have a really vivid dream the other morning, about a guy I had a crush on many many years ago (I don't even remember his last name anymore; that's how long ago it was). The details of the dream are gone, but as I woke up, they transformed into the kernel of an idea for a story. I got up and scrambled for a pen -- why is it that I can't seem to keep a pen by my bed? Every time I put one there, it disappears! -- and finally went downstairs and forbade anyone to speak to me until I'd gotten the idea jotted down in my Ideas folder in my iPad.

I'm still trying to decide if it's a standalone notion or if it'll get combined with another plot thread I had a while back, but it's a fun notion and the opening prologue scene is already all but written in my head, so I'm looking forward to it.

This weekend is MarsCon! I won't be there in any official capacity, but I'll be there nonetheless, and hopefully (if I can find a little time to print them) I'll be leaving a few flyers around for Of One Mind and Safe Harbor. Look for me and say hi!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Progress (Lack Of)

Pretty much as expected, I haven't done much in the way of writing in the last week. Busy schedule, holiday craziness, blah blah blah. Excuses are boring.

But it's a new year, right? So tell me what's going on in the new year for you! I'm working on losing the weight I gained last year (way more than I really want to cop to) and trying to get some stuff settled at the Day Job. I know I'm supposed to offer up some variety of resolution related to writing, but to be honest, since writing is a labor of love and I'm not trying to pay my bills with it, then at least for the time being, I kind of need it to be a low-stress, low-pressure, I'll-get-to-it-eventually sort of thing. Because if I make it another job, then that leaches some of the love away and makes it yet one more thing for me to use to compare myself to unfavorably.

And who needs that? Not me. If I only publish something once a year, then so be it. Would it help my sales if I was a little more productive? Sure. But I'm slowly trying to wean myself off my frantic thrashing over the lack of time in my schedule. Some nights, I'd rather dork with photos than write. Some nights, I just want to watch TV or read. For the next week or so, I've got a house that needs to be un-decorated and de-cluttered. There's a local sci-fi con in a week and a half that I've already bought tickets for. (Are you going? Let me know!)

One of the big frustrations I have with my kids is that they'll ask me to do something, and then when I'm in the middle of that, they'll ask me to do something else. Like they can't see that I'm already busy with something. I've lost track of the number of times I've said, "Just wait; I can only do one thing at a time."

Funny that I don't want to apply that to myself -- but I really need to start. Don't worry; I'm not going to quit writing. I don't think I can. But I'm trying to make the effort to allow myself to focus on one thing at a time (as much as any parent is allowed to, anyway). Cleaning up the house. Getting back into my diet and exercise program. Getting caught up at the Day Job. Like that.