Sunday, December 20, 2009

scheduling of days

This week, I tried -- well, not to do GTD, certainly. I looked at all I want to do with my time, and I tried to break up the time I have available in my working day to give me two concentrated sections of working on projects, split by dealing with stuff like e-mail, forums I frequent, and reading blogs. Then I roughed out what I thought I could fit into those slots each day.

It didn't work, of course.

The first day went okay, but I quickly realized I could either follow my time divisions *or* get the amount done on my projects that I wanted each day, but not both. The crit I'm working on is detailed enough that it's not 3 minutes a page, and the paying work (updating an index this week) took some time to find the most efficient method of working on it. So none of those blocks of time got used for writing.

By the end of the week, I was a bit cranky.

I still like this idea in principle, but the blogs and social networking and such -- that's going to have to be either early morning (before I'm dealing with getting kids out the door) or evening (while dinner simmers). That will give me larger chunks of time, in which I will be able to get more done. And I might have to discard the blog-reading on some days entirely to use that time for writing. Because as much as I want to know what's going on in publishing and with my friends and the people I find interesting in life, getting the writing actually done is more important.

Thus, there will be adjustments made. This week? Scheduling isn't going to work at all. Monday is going to be Christmas shopping. Tuesday, I've got stuff at my son's school. Wednesday, the next proofreading gig arrives. Oh, and I've agreed to beta read a book for another friend. So maybe next week, I'll give it a stab again.

I may wind up realizing I just can't do all I want to. If so, family, writing, and paying work take precedence.

Monday, December 14, 2009

time periods for a story

I've seen a few things lately denigrating horses-and-castles fantasy, anything set in medieval or pseudo-Dark Ages. Of course, my new idea, Sundered Sword, needs a historical milieu.

The idea started with the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "[S]trange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government." Which got me thinking about Excalibur and wondering what would happen if two different people both got swords -- or part of the same sword.

I can't write about such a thing in a modern world or even post-Enlightenment. People don't believe in divine right to rule and haven't for centuries. That pretty much limits the sort of fantastical world I can create.

It won't be a strictly medieval world. I've been reading a lovely biography of a woman in early seventeenth-century Italy, and I'll be borrowing Renaissance and Baroque elements, probably including guns and cannon. But the absolutely critical point is at heart, people must believe in the right of kings (or queens) to rule, even if it has been generations since one has.

And that's my rationale for adding yet another horses-and-swords fantasy to the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

on the setting of goals

Last week, my friend Bonnie wrote a post on impaired executive function, which focused on her knowing what her goals are but needing to figure out how to get herself to focus on them on a day-to-day level. We had a lot of back-and-forth in chat about setting long-term goals and how we translate that to actually working on them. I tossed off a comment about having monthly goals and drawing weekly goals from them, and then I realized that I don't, not usually.

Here's the way this year has gone:
  • I came up with a short list of goals.

  • I created a spreadsheet, with different writing areas as rows and months as columns, and plugged the anticipated work into slots, thus giving myself monthly targets. (I also marked off August as vacation time, though the actual vacation was mid-July to mid-August.) Some things got put on the spreadsheet that were not in my goals, such as "post to Random Walks T/Th."

  • Every week, on the Daily Page & Word Count forum at Forward Motion for Writers, I would post a list of things I planned to work on that week -- including paying work, family events, and writing primarily determined by deadline. (Yes, the "Daily" forum is generally used on a week-by-week basis, with daily posting of progress. It's the way it has evolved.)

  • At the end of each month, I looked at how I was doing compared to my initial annual goals. I also created an updated worksheet in the spreadsheet, showing what was actually accomplished through that month and changes to the plan coming up. Some things (such as the aforementioned blog posts) got carried over, even though I wasn't doing them.

Now, a few years back, I read David Allen's Getting Things Done. I implemented part of it (I'd never heard of a tickler file before, but it's been great for getting bills paid, as long as I'm good at checking it.), tried part of it (the brain dump of projects took too long . . . ), and said, "Are you out of your mind? I don't have time for that!" to other parts (the weekly review).

It dawned on me this week that I already do a weekly review. Every week, I sit down and figure out how I did on my goals for that week and write down what I plan to work on for the next week. I just don't implement it fully. I don't look at my monthly or annual goals to see what I should be working on if I want to get to where I want to go. I also don't look at the "Someday/Maybe" list to see whether there's something I should be adding in because it fits where I am at the moment.

Next Action (Okay, not really, but it's more GTD-speak than "now on my to-do list"): Review the section on weekly reviews in the GTD book and start implementing it more fully in my week.

Of course, this doesn't address Bonnie's original question. I've got a week's worth of things to work on (some from this week include crit for Myrrdin, write on Jim Bob or Sundered Sword or both, work on short stories) and no really good way to get myself to sit down and do any one of them at a given time. (And on weeks like this, broken up by family and personal illness, little inclination to do any of them.)

I do try, of course. Some things are dictated by deadline -- a lot of my paying work, for example. Some things I find go best if I consistently do a bit each day -- such as when I'm doing a crit -- I like to do enough each day to immerse myself in the story, but not so much that I'm not getting my own work done. I find about 30 pages a day is a good target (not that I did that this week).

So, in addition to working on that weekly review, which should help me break long-term goals down into more manageable chunks, I may be experimenting with weekly-to-daily translations during this next year as well. Check back for further updates.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2009 goals update

I took a look at my stated goals for the year, and although I've made progress on them, I'm certainly not going to get all of them met before this December 31.

Edit two novels and get at least one out to agents. I edited one, sent it out for crits, read the crits, and prepared a new edit plan for it. For the other, I've read through it and prepped an edit plan/outline. Nothing has made it as far as an agent.

Submit one novella and one novelette. Novella done, submiited, results as good as could be hoped for. Novelette was supposed to go to Nocturne Bites; I've decided to shelve that project indefinitely (i.e., trunk it), even though I am almost finished with the edits.

Outline NaNo 2007. Done as part of above editing plans.

And a new novel for NaNoWriMo? I certainly participated. I even won. What I did not do was write a complete novel, and Jim Bob is not going to be finished this month, either.

So the final score for 2009 goals? Actually, pretty good. I didn't get as much progress on novels, either writing or editing, as I wanted, but I did make progress.

What does this mean for 2010? I'll roll over the editing and writing, of course, as a minimum. However, I should get more done in the coming year. My youngest is in daycare now, which will give me mire time. Also, not taking as long a family vacation -- thus, expecting to get far more done and will be posting 2010 goals that reflect this.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

posting for NaNo

Yes, it's that time of year again.

My co-ML (Hi, Nicki!) started a WordPress blog for us ( I've put up two posts this week on preparation:

Plotting vs. Pantsing

Methods of Plotting

Feel free to check them out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

2009 goals update

Okay, I'm a bit behind on the "six month" update. I listed my goals for the year on December 31, and I'm doing pretty good so far.

I have:
  • edited one novel and sent it off for crits
  • submitted one novella (today)
  • finished writing and editing one novelette and sent it off for crit
  • reoutlined my 2007 NaNo (which will probably be my second novel edited for the year)

Still on the agenda:
  • second novel edited
  • one novel out to agents
  • novelette submitted
  • new novel for NaNo 2009

I'm hoping to send out the novelette soon, and then there's family vacation. A good reward for good progress!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Review of August/September issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Toward the beginning of the month, I saw a note on Twitter about reviewing an issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction, and I immediately went over to the magazine's site to volunteer. A free copy of a major genre magazine in return for sharing my opinions? What's not to like?

When my review copy arrived, I was startled. I knew the magazine had gone to a bimonthly schedule and had increased their page count in the process, but I wasn't expecting the full-length paperback in my mailbox -- 256 pages. (I think they count it as 260, counting the front cover as page 1; I'm only counting the pages between the covers.) Wow.

Not every story was to my taste, but I wouldn't have expected to enjoy them all equally. If I were picking this issue up in a store and started at the beginning, not knowing any of the authors, just starting at the beginning, I probably wouldn't have finished reading. However, having read the entire issue, I found more to enjoy than otherwise, and I recommend picking up a copy.

The seven novelettes, three short stories, two reprints, one poem, and various departments and cartoons cut a wide slice across the genres, in length, style, and sub-genre. The tales cover everything from magical realism to exploration of a foreign planet to traditional fantasy with wizards battling for a kingdom. Most people will find something in these pages that resonates with them.

Herewith, my commentary on the various stories:

"The Art of the Dragon" by Sean McMullen starts vividly, with a two-mile-long dragon eating the Eiffel Tower. The writing was beautiful, and the story developed well -- until we got to the climax. To me, it felt like the start of a dystopian world, and the narrator saying, "understanding what the dragon wants is not the same as agreeing with it" does not make the idea of the story any more palatable to me. (I realize a story does not necessarily reflect an author's views. I know that some people prefer stories that make them uncomfortable or that espouse ideas in conflict with their own. Knowing these things also does not help me to appreciate this story.)

The second story, "You Are Such a One" by Nancy Springer, is a bit of magical realism, lushly depicted in second-person present, that left me at the end saying, "So what?" By this point in reading the magazine, I was feeling disappointed -- two for two on good stories where the ending fell flat to my sensibilities. This is the point I might have given up.

I'm glad I didn't. Melinda M. Snodgrass's "A Token of a Better Age" captivated me. (Who says frame stories don't work?) It took a minute for the last line to penetrate, but once I got it, I laughed out loud. THAT was a story with a complete arc and satisfactory ending. I immediately put Ms. Snodgrass's Edge books on my list of things to look for. I want more by this author, in this world.

"Obsolete Theories" is a lovely poem that recaptures the spirit of "Some say the world will end in fire . . . " yet is original. Kudos to Sophie M. White!

Matthew Hughes' "Hunchster" is short -- possibly the shortest story in the magazine. I wouldn't say the prose is beautiful ("You'd think I'd remember the kid's name, but I never could" is how it starts.), but the voice is true throughout, and there's a completeness in its shortness.

There are two reprint stories -- one introduced by Gordon Van Gelder, one by Harlan Ellison -- and both are clearly memorable. "The Goddamned Tooth Fairy," by Tina Kuzminski, presents a wonderful view of scars and pasts and history and moving on. As someone with my own set of highly visible scars, I found this story resonated with me, even if I still hold on a bit tighter than I should to the past. "Snowfall," by Jessie Thompson, is vivid, poignant, perfectly crafted, and very horrifying. I can see why Mr. Ellison found it memorable; I don't believe I shall forget it, either.

Yoon Ha Lee created a singular world of necromancy and zombies in "The Bones of Giants." In many ways, it strikes me as classic fantasy, with undertones of fairy tales, but it moves beyond those boundaries. I enjoyed my time in Tamim's world.

Another story where the ending left me disappointed and feeling a complete lack of resolution was "Icarus Saved from the Skies" ("Icare sauvé des cieux") by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, tranlated by Edward Gauvin. The writing was beautiful, but I got to the end and said, "That whole build-up was for that? What's the point?"

"The Others," by Lawrence C. Connolly is, the introduction says, a direct sequel to "Daughters of Prime," which will be available on their Website (but was not yet when I looked, presumably because it's still June and this issue is supposed to be on the shelves in two months). I found this very engaging adventurous SF, with the caveat that I want to read a longer piece, as the story was complete but entirely new questions had arisen at the end. Wanting to read more of an author's work is far from the worst reaction a reader can have. This is, perhaps, the only story in the magazine where I hesitated at the end but felt unquestionably that I would read more by the author when given the opportunity.

The next novelette, "Three Leaves of Aloe" by Rand B. Lee, immerses the reader in an India of the future, yet one immediately recognizable to the people of today -- call centers purportedly in the United States, bullies at work and at school, a driving need to get ahead in life. This is a moving SF story. I don't know if I'll be on the lookout for more of Mr. Lee's work per se, but if given the opportunity to read it, I expect to enjoy it.

Albert E. Cowdrey's "The Private Eye" is filled with a strong narrative voice that brings small-town Louisiana of Jimmy John Link to life. This was another story that had me laughing -- and I plan to hit the local bookstore to get the June/July issue of the magazine before the end of this month, as it has another, but far different, tale by Cowdrey in it.

The best was definitely saved for last: "Esoteric City" by Bruce Sterling. Set in a Turin of Black and White magic, this story features an Egyptian mummy, a major automotive company, and a visit to hell. Entirely captivating, this story is going to stay with me for a while.

The Departments are also worth a mention: the books reviewed by Charles de Lint have given me a couple of items to add to my ever-growing TBR pile, while Elizabeth Hand's analyses gave me more to think about. I found Lucius Shepard's analysis of the movie Watchman patronizing with his assumption that all superhero comics have a "vision of history and . . . take on human relationships [that] are adolescent and simplistic." This is not the place for a long discussion of the pros and cons of superhero comics, but if a reviewer feels the need to make comments little different from "It's not bad for what it is," maybe he should find a different genre to review.

Also, there are comics scattered throughout. They vary in quality (I've seen much better Harris cartoons than the one on page 192), but they are all welcome breaks. (My favorite appears on page 212.)

Overall, I found three stories with endings that left me cold, a couple new authors whom I won't seek out but might enjoy seeing again, and a handful of stories, both fantasy and science fiction, that earned high marks all around. The true mark of how much I enjoyed this issue? I'm currently waiting on a check for a freelance job, and as soon as it arrives, I'm subscribing to the magazine. I want to see what their 60th anniversary issue holds, and I want to see where they go from there.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

1,000 Words a Day

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, aka Inkygirl, has started the 1,000 Words a Day Challenge, a year-long challenge to keep yourself writing. She says she's open to having a 500 Words a Day badge, too, if enough people are interested.

The rules are simple: Try to write 1000 words a day, at least six days a week.

As long as you're honestly trying, it counts -- even if you don't reach it. How's that for cool?

I could do it now, but we're going on a long vacation starting next month, so I won't put the badge up until we get back.

If you want some motivation or encouragement, go check it out.

Friday, June 05, 2009

halfway there?

Almost a month ago now, I posted that I was going to be starting the revision of Witchy Woman. To refresh your memory (if you don't want to click on the link),
The anticipated process:
  • read through the manuscript

  • create outline of current state

  • work through world-building and necessary plot expansions

  • update revision outline

  • hard copy edit (get rid of tics and add description at this stage!)

  • type in edits

  • have Word read manuscript to me while I follow along to make sure all edits complete
As of this morning, I have a completed revision outline, meaning I've completed the first four steps. Of course, that fifth step being the actual page-by-page edit plus writing of new scenes, it's going to take some time. It took me longer to get to this point than I'd hoped, but I didn't actually work at it every day. That changes now.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One edit down, on to the next

Yesterday, I finished my revision of The Christmas Tree Farm Murders and sent it off to be critted. I started working on the revision outline April 7, so that's just under a month. Not bad.

I'm going to be starting the revision of Witchy Woman next, and I thought I'd talk a little about my editing process here. I started off with Holly Lisle's articles on One-Pass Manuscript Revision and How to Revise a Novel. These are essentially the same process, just written up slightly differently.

Now, I knew I couldn't use her process as written -- as I mentioned in Making the writing pay, I feel the need to see the big picture first before I jump into cutting and making notes about adding scenes. So I added an extra pass through to create a revision outline and remind what the book as a whole looked like before I made any decisions. I actually got so caught up in the prose that I wound up stopping the outline to just read, then had to go back and page through again to create the outline. This turned out to work very well, since I could make notes on my index cards about upcoming scenes that I wanted to tie things to, or note that some scenes might work better pushed together.

Once I had my outline (a series of index cards, one scene per card), I went through and adjusted them all, removing the second POV, noting which scenes should be rewritten to the primary POV, tracing clues and planting new ones -- generally, making certain the continuity worked. I also noted dates and times to make sure the timeline worked.

Then I went through the hard copy and edited. Lots and lots of red ink all over the pages. Deletions, changes, additions. New pages written on the back of old ones. That took about a week.

Next up, the type-in. I'm odd -- I type in from back to front. This serves two purposes: the manuscript hasn't been repaginated by changes earlier in the manuscript, so the hard copy pages correspond to what's in front of me on the screen; and focusing on the sentences and paragraphs out of context gives me a separate proofreading check where I'm not seeing words because I expect them to be there.

I typed in the last four chapters and realized I was going to need another pass. I had entirely too many body language tics of the "she smiled," "she shrugged," and "he nodded" variety, and I needed to take those out and add in more actual characterization and setting description.

Thus, when I finished the type-in, I started through again, this time front to back, making those sorts of changes as I went -- and noting on my outline specific changes that would have to be propagated through later chapters.

Turns out, though, I wasn't quite done when I sent it off for crit. I'd left a wishy-washy sentence highlighted that I meant to come back to and fix. I sent e-mail about this and chalked it up as learning experience: Don't skip the final read-through before sending a manuscript to agents or editors.

That's the process as I just went through it. I'm hoping to streamline it for this next project -- sort of. You see, WW has about half the word count it needs, so I know I'm going to be layering in story-line and sub-plot.

The anticipated process:
  • read through the manuscript

  • create outline of current state

  • work through world-building and necessary plot expansions

  • update revision outline

  • hard copy edit (get rid of tics and add description at this stage!)

  • type in edits

  • have Word read manuscript to me while I follow along to make sure all edits complete

I'm hoping to get through the read-through this week, and begin the rest next week. This time, I'm estimating closer to two months than one, but we'll see.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where I stand

At the end of last month, I mentioned all that I had on my plate.

I already said that I didn't get anywhere with the Nocturne Bites pitch contest. Fortunately, I can still send in the full Bite per their normal submission guidelines.

Monday, I sent off my entry for the Knight Agency's Book in a Nutshell competition. Since then, I've finished my hard copy edits of The Christmas Tree Farm Murders and started typing them in. I'll probably have to do another clean-up pass after it's all in, but it should be fairly solid by the end of the month.

I did get a phone interview for the blog gig I applied for, but they decided my experience and skills didn't match their needs.

Looking ahead to May, I'm planning to finish up the edits on my Bite and get it sent off, work on a few short stories (maybe do Forward Motion's Story-a-Day!), and then work on two different outlines: the revision outline for Pepper (my NaNo 2007 story) and the writing outline for Ivory & Bone, which has been calling to me. I'm thinking that, even if I take more time with Pepper than I did the Christmas Trees, I can have her finished and ready to go to critters before we head out on our family vacation this summer -- and then maybe I'll work on Ivory & Bone longhand while we're on vacation. All plans, of course, are subject to change at any time.

By the way, in my New Year post, I listed getting two novels edited, submitting a novelette, and reoutlining my 2007 NaNo (plus a couple of other things) as my goals for this year. Editing The Christmas Tree Farm Murders puts me halfway to that first one, submitting the Nocturne Bite will get me the next one, and 2007 NaNo outline is up next, so I'm doing fairly well at sticking to my goals for the year. Yay, me! How are you doing, one-third of the way through the year?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

So much for that one

The short list for the Nocturne Bites pitch contest was chosen early -- 7 names rather than the 5 stated (of 60 total) -- and my pseudonym isn't on the list. I'll still finish my edits and send it off for standard submission, but I am disappointed. I thought I had a decent shot.

Ah, well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Making the writing pay

Three weeks since I last posted? My only excuse is being busy with the paying work. Well, and with actual writing that I hope to get published.

Specifically, I've been working on putting a blurb together for the Nocturne Bites pitch contest. I wrote a story targeted toward this line last year, and one of my goals for this year is to edit it and get it submitted, so this pitch contest is the perfect goad to get me moving. I've been alternating work on polishing the two-paragraph blurb with editing the actual manuscript. I want it ready to go if I'm picked -- and if I'm not, I send it in as slush.

I've also been looking at the Knight Agency's Book in a Nutshell Competition. Back in February, I printed out my mystery, The Christmas Tree Farm Murders and started putting together a revision outline of it, preparatory to doing a modified version of Holly Lisle's one-pass revision (modified because I do the read-through and outline before making any of the decisions she talks about concerning whether the scenes are doing what they're supposed to; I have to have the big picture before me to make those calls). Now my plan is to send off my Nocturne Bites pitch and then focus on this, getting it into shape by the end of April. Again, if I'm not chosen, it's not the end of the world -- I'll send it off for crit and work on my query and synopsis, then go on to the traditional submission to agents.

Yesterday, I added even more to my plate -- I submitted an application for a paying blog gig. They may well look at my blogs and say, "She doesn't seem to stay focused and consistent, so we don't want to use her." I hope they don't. If I'm offered a position, that's paying work -- and as I've said before, I give paying work priority. If that means sitting down and writing a blog post first thing every weekday, then I'll do that. I'll also try to get back to blogging more regularly here -- but I'll focus first on fiction.

I have one of those minds always fascinated by the new and shiny. I want to take on new projects because they're different. For a bit, I was considering trying to do a podcast. I was going to try to account in advance for my tendency to get busy by having a half dozen episodes recorded before ever going live, and I only wanted to publish once every couple of weeks, maybe even only once a month. I had a title and a premise ("The Many Voices of Erin" all about trying to write and get published in multiple genres). However, I have decided both that I don't have time for this sort of project and that it will not advance my career materially enough to be worth the effort. It won't pay, and it probably won't convince anyone -- agent or editors or readers -- to buy more of my work. So I've discarded that idea.

I am moving forward, trying to make choices to get my writing out there, to get paid for it, to get read. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Best podcasts for writers, part 5: The Writing Cast

Today, I'm reviewing The Writing Cast, by Ivy Reisner. I've only listened to about eight episodes because that's all that iTunes has. It's possible to click on the archived months on the blog, select which entry you're interested in, and then listen to the MP3, but frankly, that's more work than I want to go through. (I tried clicking on the "Writing Podcast" category, but it left some out -- for example, the episode on writing humor.)

The podcast comes out twice a month, so it's easy to keep up with.

The format of the shows is pretty simple: Ivy provides a writing resource, talks about specific writing-related issues (for example, in February, she had one episode dealing with sentence structure and how to vary it), mentions other news that may be of interest (such as a new anthology or software that she's been trying out), and gives a writing prompt.

She's pointed to a few tools I want to check out, such as Changing Minds. Her discussion of haiku and renga was also very interesting.

The latest episode is for February 27, on conflict of interest. I'm curious to see what's up next. Since it does appear somewhat sporadic (twice a month, but not following any obvious pattern), it will probably never be my favorite podcast, but it's definitely worth a listen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The day job, or why I haven't been around

Two posts from me in one day! What next?

This one is mostly just a "this is why I'm not around as much." It's the day job. Now, listening to Mur Lafferty in ISBW, at one point she said that if she wants to be making her living 10 years down the road by writing fiction, she needs to make time to write it now, to make that a priority. I can see her point.

However, my mom raised me practical. First, I have to pay today's bills before I worry about how I'm going to be doing that a decade from now. And if I'm pushing myself -- staying up until 2 a.m., getting up at 5 a.m., and considering all-nighters -- trying to get those bills paid, I'm not going to take extra time to write. I've been exhausted, and anything I wrote would have been crap.

When I don't have time for my fiction writing, I sure don't have time to blog. Thus, my absence.

I'm almost finished with this one job, which is why I'm taking a breather. Then I have to dive in and finish the other mondo job. Small stuff lined up after that, nothing too intense. Yes, there will be writing on the horizon! Which is good, as I want to submit to both the PARSEC Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story Contest and the Destination: Future anthology. Among other, more regular, markets.

One step at a time, though. First, I finish the paying work.

Where's my podcast review?

Lately, I've been trying to catch up on back episodes of several podcasts -- at the top of the list are I Should Be Writing, Tor Podcasting, and Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop Podcasts. It takes a lot longer to catch up on a podcast than it does to keep up, so it may take another week or so before I get to another review. I did manage to listen to 7 of 19 episodes of the Tor podcast today what with errands and cooking and the like, so it's not hopeless. (On the other hand, I'm only up to episode 44 of 110 numbered episodes -- plus daily experiments, special editions, and video episodes -- of ISBW. That's going to take longer.)

Look for a review post next Tuesday!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Vanishing markets

If you write short fiction in fantasy or science fiction (or both), you should be using to keep track of markets -- what's new, what's changed, and what's closed.

This morning, I got the monthly newsletter and discovered two things: Odyssey Workshop has a LiveJournal blog, and the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series has been canceled.

I went looking for more info on the YBFH and found Gavin Grant's original post, Ellen Datlow's comments, and Terri Windling's post. Honestly, the canceling of this series of year's best shook me more than the closing of Realms of Fantasy. Not that I was going to appear in either any too soon.

Between these closings and the news that the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is going bi-monthly, I'm realizing that short fiction print markets for science fiction and fantasy are dying out. I have no doubt that on-line markets, whether donation or subscription, will remain viable, but especially at the pro level, print is rapidly fading.

So if there is a print magazine that you enjoy -- it doesn't have to be pro -- get a subscription to it, even if you know you will not get around to reading it every time it comes in. If you don't know which magazine you might like, go to a bookstore (or better yet, a con, which will have all sorts of hard-to-find magazines in the dealers' room) and pick up a variety to decide among. I currently subscribe to Weird Tales and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. I'll probably add one or two others this year. Ones I'm considering: Fantasy, Interzone, Space & Time, and Talebones.

If you have a favorite print magazine, please let us know in the comments. And if you have some good news or other insights into the short fiction market, chime in with that, too.

Friday, January 30, 2009

breaking the rules

Sorry I haven't been posting much. Twice next week, I promise.

Recently, I've been listening to podiobooks, and I'm really enjoying J. C. Hutchins's 7th Son trilogy. If you haven't heard it, check it out. The first book is scheduled for print release, so if you prefer the printed word, you won't have too long to wait. One of the really cool things about this trilogy is that he starts with eight men all named John Michael Smith. That's right -- he totally shatters the rule about not having characters with similar names by giving them all the same name. They all go by different versions of the name -- John, Jack, Jonathan, Mike, Michael, and so forth -- but the similarity is there, along with the potential for confusion. Hutchins does a very good job of delineating the differences between the men, though, and it makes for a terrific listen.

Another pair of books with similar character names is Marie Brennan's Doppelganger duology. I've only gotten partway through the first book so far, but I have to say that she does an excellent job of distinguishing Mirage from Miryo.

Some readers might have more trouble with these names. Losing such readers is a risk. But these books show that the rule can be broken.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Best podcasts for writers, part 4: The Secrets Podcast for Writers

I apologize for running behind this week; I've been under the weather and working on paying work that never seems to decrease. I'll try to get back on track, but I have family visiting next week, so we'll see.

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A while back, I mentioned the Secrets podcast by Michael A. Stackpole and said that I'd get back to it to do a review. The time has come. This podcast is a companion to his Secrets newsletter, which is $1 an issue for new issues and $2 an issue for back issues. Why back issues should be more expensive when they're all just digital files, I have no clue. I also could find no mention on his Website,, of how often the newsletter comes out.

As with other podcasts I've discussed, you can subscribe to the Secrets through iTunes, although many of the earlier episodes don't seem to be available. The episodes I've listened to -- up to the most current one available -- included some general stuff, analyses of how he set things up in a couple of his novels, the "21 days to a novel" series, and his most recent ones ("Series Five") on the effect of changes in technology on publishing.

His earlier ones grated on my nerves quite a bit because he never seemed to acknowledge that his way might not be the One True Way to write. One of his pronouncements that really bothered me was "never edit before you finish writing." I had three problems with this:
  1. Some bestselling authors do, in fact, start each day by editing their work from the previous day. Not everyone works the same way.
  2. He said that one must write a novel in order to edit a novel. Many fine copyeditors and developmental editors out there have not written a novel but are doing marvelous jobs whipping other peoples' novels into shape. The ability to edit is not contingent upon the ability to write.
  3. He gave examples of how he went back and changed a story before he reached the end because "It was finished. It was dead in the water." Then he claimed that that didn't count as editing. Such semantic skullduggery will probably be lost on the neophyte novelist trying to decide whether to go back and change something because he doesn't know how to go forward otherwise or or the budding author who is trying to figure out where she should draw the lines between editing, rewriting, and revision.

(Yes, that particular one stuck in my craw a bit.)

On the other hand, I kept listening because he had some very solid bits in there phrased in ways I hadn't heard them before--for example, saying that if you can get the reader anticipating the future of a character (Will he wind up with the blonde or the brunette? Is somebody going to die this time out? If two characters have mutually exclusive goals, who is going to get their heart's desire?), the reader is emotionally invested and will keep reading. Except I think he said it a lot better than that.

He's also done two in-depth series on his books and why he made the choices he did in writing. He used A Secret Atlas to discuss how openings and world-building work, and he talked about plotting using Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. These sets of episodes make for very concrete discussions because he explains exactly what he was setting out to do, and how he did it. I haven't read A Secret Atlas, although he did say the discussion would make more sense with the book in front of the listener. However, having listened to his explications, I'm intrigued enough with the characters and the world to want to read it now.

His most recent series, on technology, is proving very enlightening. I don't buy his statement that printed books are going to, in general, go the way of the dodo. I personally believe we're moving into a time when a whole range of options for publications, including printed books, will be available for writers and readers -- just as people looking for visual entertainment currently can go to the theater (for a play or a musical), go to the movies, watch TV, watch a video in several different formats, or watch shows and clips on the Internet. However, his podcast does cover interesting ways to take advantage of technology to try to reach readers, and I highly recommend this series of shows if you're looking to market yourself as an author.

To sum up: a lot of his advice sounds as though it's targeted to someone just getting into writing, and if you've been working at it for a while, you, too, may find some of the things he says annoying. Be that as it may, he has a lot of good information in this podcast, and it's worth listening to. Just be aware that it is highly irregular in schedule, as he sees it mainly as a publicity vehicle for the newsletter -- and since he makes it available without charge, it's lowest on his priority list.