I know I keep threatening to return to a regular blogging routine, but life seems intent on not letting that happen, which is frustrating since not posting regularly tends to lead to hardly anyone paying attention when you actually do post. So even though I may be blogging into a void, here's the state of me:
* School is keeping me busy, but I'm enjoying it a lot more than I ever did grant writing. This whole getting my MLIS thing? Good damn decision, I think.
* Speaking of life keeping me busy, there will be a distinct lack of con attendance on my part for the rest of the year. I had been hoping to attend Sirens and Capclave this month, but there's just too much else going on for me to swing either one. And I'd normally do Philcon in November since it's practically right in my backyard, but I'll be off in Austin that weekend.
* Writing progress! Well, at least there was progress until a damn cold sidelined me yesterday (it's hard to focus or stare at a computer screen for too long when it feels like you have a head full of gauze-wrapped bricks). But before then, I got my short story "The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen" revised and sent out the door, and now I'm working on revisions for "Demon Dreams." And when that's done, I think I'll dive back into the never-ending My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel revisions.
* And last but certainly not least: I can haz zombie art? The awesome-looking title spread (with art by Dave Senecal) for my story in issue 25 of Black Static, which should be coming out this month:
In the meantime, here's the bullet points of what I've been up to in the writing department:
* My zombie apocalypse story "The Holy Spear" has been accepted by Black Static. This will be my second appearance in their pages, which I'm thrilled about.
* Speaking of Black Static, reviewer Peter Tennant wrote a nice post about my story "The Wounded House" from issue 20 on his blog.
* Received my shiny contributor copy of Aoife's Kiss (10th anniversary issue) this morning. Pretty.
* Gearing up for this summer's TNEO workshop for Odyssey alum. As of last night, all the critiques I had to do are officially done! I've still got a ton of other things to do, but it's nice to put a big fat check mark next to that beast of an item.
* Unfortunately, progress on the writing front has been mostly non-existent. I got in a good afternoon of revision work on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel a couple weeks ago, but otherwise, that's been kind of it. But now that TNEO critiques are out of the way, I can hopefully get back in gear. I've got some revisions to do on a short story, several flash pieces I should probably polish up and send out somewhere (anyone have suggestions on where to send an unabashedly liberal-leaning gay superhero flash story?), and then back to the novel grind.
Unfortunately, the magazine that accepted my post-apocalyptic zombie story last year appears to be a little on the dead side. Duotrope's declared them so some time back (website not updated in some time, no reply to their inquiries...the usual). I waited it out a bit longer, wanting to give the benefit of the doubt, but it's been over a year with no sign of any future issues surfacing. I never received any kind of contract, so I finally sent an email officially withdrawing my story from the publication (on the off-chance there's ever any further activity there). The perils of trying a new publication, alas. [And editing this entry to add: I heard back from the submissions editor who had accepted my story, and she confirmed that things aren't moving forward at this point and that I should try the story elsewhere.] I've since sent the story off shambling in search of a new home, so here's hoping.
And on the My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel front...
Between Sirens and sniffling, not a lot of progress lately, but what little progress I've made has been good progress. At first the chapter 2 rewrite was laying some serious hurt on my brain. It was an unfortunate case of conflicting critique comments knocking my internal compass off-kilter, with comments like "The characterization is great but the pacing is a bit too slow" followed by "I think you should slow things down and spend more time letting us get to know the characters." But I managed to find my footing again, figure out what felt right to me, and get the rewrite off to a good start.
I just got word that my story "Monkey Love" was selected for Every Day Fiction's 2009 "best of" anthology.
Speaking of flash fiction, my fellow '07 Odyssey mate hildebabble has some zombie-riffic goodness over at Everyday Weirdness. Enjoy the Halloween-week fun, and you might want to consider zombie-proofing your home while you're at it. Just in case.
I started a new short story during this morning's train ride to work. I'm only about 400 words into it, but that doesn't feel too shabby considering a) the train ride's only 20 minutes long, and b) during my not-all-that-long-ago writerly slog phase, I was lucky if I could get down 400 words after two hours. I think (hope) this is going to be a fun one.
I had submitted the story to Apex when they reopened last month since it has some SFish elements on top of the zombie stuff. The submissions editor who replied said they usually don't publish zombie stories, but she thought this was a pretty good one and recommended two other places to try it. I didn't hear back on my query to the first publisher she recommended that I contact (not too surprising since they're not currently open to submissions), so I decided to try her other suggestion of Revenant, which I'm amazed I hadn't encountered before. Sent off the submission, and in an under hour, I had me a sale. Revenant gets some serious props in the speedy response department...which, for a zombie mag, is amusingly ironic given the usual speed at which zombies move.
Got through chapters 11 and 12 in Bitterwood this week. I've also been listening to more of The Road in the car, and that--well, "enjoying" doesn't seem like the right word for this kind of book. But I'm hooked.
Except for yesterday, I kept on top of the routine. But I think slacking yesterday was probably a good thing. My left leg was sore and stiff from overdoing it earlier in the week, and taking a day off seems to have helped.
Slightly crazy week. On top of church choir and piano lessons, the chorus I'm in has our first of two Carmina Burana concerts tonight. So in addition to the regular Monday night rehearsal, we had the dress rehearsal last night. There's a large contingent of clueless people in this group who have serious problems with that whole filing on and off the risers thing, so coordinating that always takes ten times longer than it should and makes me want to smack my head against hard surfaces.
More rejections, more stories back out the door. I have two stories I'd like to try at Sword & Sorceress, and I thought the markets they're currently at would have bounced them back by now, but amazingly, no. Knowing my luck, they'll both reject the stories the day after the Sword & Sorceress submission window closes.
I was tinkering with novel revisions last weekend, but the zombie story kept calling to me, so I finally answered and began my next round of revisions on that. I'm rather excited as I think it's going to be a much tighter story now, and I think some of the changes I've made are helping me better develop what's going on with the protagonist. I also realized that I had an entire scene that could go away, so the story's already about 1,000 words shorter.
Reading: Up to chapter 8 in Bitterwood, and up to chapter 35 in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. JS&MN has gotten much more interesting, so I'm glad I was able to go the audio book route with it as I doubt I would have made it this far otherwise. The beginning was entertaining, but between the slow pacing, the footnotes, the oh-so-Victorianesque style, and the fact that it's about a gazillion thousand pages long, I think it would have been too much to take for my slow-reading self.
Exercise & Music: More of the same.
Writing: As I said before, DONE! The not-so-crappy second draft of the zombie story, tentatively titled "The Holy Spear," has clocked in at 8,600 words--still damn long, but at least shorter than the 9,100 words it started out with. I'm much happier with the story than I thought I was going to be while slogging through the first draft, and hopefully it's a different enough take on the post-apocalyptic zombie oeuvre to make the effort worthwhile. So now onto the wonderful world of crits in the hopes of producing an even-less-crappy third draft. In the meantime, back to the novel revisions.
* After downloading the free trial to my Macbook over the weekend, I think I may be a little bit in love with Scrivener.
* My PC desktop isn't on its last leg yet, but it's slow and pisses me off a lot. So the decision has been made--I'm getting me an iMac.
* I need to stop rambling and go to bed. Because that whole thing last night where I went to bed at 2, didn't fall asleep until after 3, and then woke up again sometime after 4 when a car accident a couple blocks away resulted in the smashy boom sound and the power outage and the eerie green light show when the transformer went kaplooey? Yeah, that didn't make for a good night's sleep. And tomorrow morning, I'm going to regret having been so punchy right now.
Reading: Two more chapters in Bitterwood, up to chapter 23 in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and a story at Tor.com that I highly recommend for fans of the play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: "We Haven't Got There Yet" by Harry Turtledove. I'm a little bit in love with this brief bit from the story: "Hamlet goes missing--as he must, for his place in the remaining action lies in Elsinore. Is he any freer than Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, or only better written?"
Exercise: We recently got Wii Fit, so I've been spending a good 20-30 minutes a day getting acquainted with that. No substitute for the more substantial yoga and pilates sessions I've done in the past, but definitely more of a workout than I would have thought.
Music: The usual--chorus rehearsals, piano lesson, practicing.
Writing: As I posted on Wednesday, the first draft of the zombie story is done! So that's about 1,200 new words written on that this week, and tonight I started revisions on chapter 3 of My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel. Chapter 3's pretty short and doesn't need any major revisions, so I decided to tackle that before de-crapifying the zombie story.
Writing Business: Queries out on a couple of stragglers, one of which came back with a reply that the story got far but "looks like it's going to be rejected" and they'll be sending along comments soon. So I guess I'll wait until I get the actual commenty rejection before doing anything else with that story. On a happier note, at least, today I got notice that my quarter 1 Writers of the Future submission got an honorable mention. Considering I almost didn't send that one there, that's better than expected.
Man, that is the longest it's ever taken me to write a damn story, in part because life got in the way for a bit there, and then because the weeks following life getting in the way have been full of some ongoing writerly self doubt. Blah.
Now I have to decide if I dive right into revisions, or if I switch back to the novel for a bit first.
Reading: I finished Prime Codex on Monday. The last story was "Radical Acceptance" by David W. Goldman, which made me smile. Space otters make me happy. There were a few stories in Prime Codex that didn't work for me, on the whole, it's a good collection that I'd recommend.
For my next book, I started James Maxey's Bitterwood (got through the prologue and chapter 1 this past week). And in the audio book department, I'm up to chapter 18 in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I also thought I'd mention that I also read short stories in various places online, but I'm so scattershot about those that I decided I won't keep track of them on here unless one blows away me so much that I must share its awesomeness with all the world.
Exercise: I haven't done yoga or pilates in what feels like forever, and I only got on the elliptical strider two days this week. Beyond that, it was just pseudo-exercise in the form of Wii Sports and the 15-minute walk to and from the concert I was at for work last night.
Music: I had to miss chorus rehearsal Monday night to attend a grant award reception for work, but otherwise I was good about keeping up with practicing this week. I didn't get any in yesterday beccause of the concert I was working, but I'm making up for it today.
Writing Business: Two more stories came home, disappointed that their brilliance had not been recognized. One was a simultaneous sub, so he'll just continue waiting at the place that hasn't rejected him yet. The other one is waiting for the next market it wants to visit to re-open in April. And I think I may have to shoot out some queries on one or two stories to see if they're coming for dinner or staying over at their friend's house for a bit longer.
Writing: A little over 1,600 words on the zombie story this week, and I'm still not frickin' done. Close, though--I'm about halfway through the penultimate scene. Hopefully I'll be able to trim this one significantly during revisions, because right now it's at 8,200 words and counting.
I've got some more practicing to get in today since I'm doing a solo at church tomorrow morning. And I have to figure out what I feel like doing tomorrow afternoon to determine what I do after practicing today. I could go to my writer's group tomorrow, which means I have a 9,400 word story to critique. Or I could go the Mozart Requiem Sing-In the chorus I'm in is holding tomorrow, which means I don't have to crit that story and can get some more writing done instead. Decisions, decisions...
Reading: Read two more stories in Prime Codex. "Tides" by Tobias Buckell was sad but lovely, with some truly wonderful world-building. "Urban Renewal" by Tom Pendergrass was a fun little tale in which the little old lady who lived in a shoe meets modern bureaucracy. Only three more stories in the book to go.
And so that I can feel productive while driving to and from work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I've decided to give audio books a try. I browsed through the selection at the library today and picked up Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
Exercise: Wii Sports counts, right? My right arm and shoulder sure tell me it should after all the tennis and baseball. And the boxing certainly feels like good cardio, though it took until today to finally get an opponent who put up a fight. I knocked out the five before him in the first round. This one at least lasted until the second.
Music: Lots of piano and singing.
Writing Business: Another nice but frustratingly close one from Cemetery Dance: "Nicely written throughout, and good emotion. This one came very close for me--please try us again with something new when we reopen to submissions in 2010." I will crack this market, damn it. Also a nice one from Shimmer for a different story: "I think it's very well written and I love the evocative details of the piece, but..." Ah, the ever popular "but" of death.
Writing: I haven't been able to do any writing since last Wednesday, so it was tough getting back into the groove today. But I managed a little bit more on the zombie story, so here's hoping I can pick up steam and find that awesomely productive zone I was in before real life reared its head last week.
Reading: I only got through two more stories in Prime Codex. One was "Black Boxes" by fellow Odfellow matthewsrotundo , which I enjoyed. I particularly liked the touches of Poe and Orwell that snuck in there, though the ending felt a touch too quick to me--the protagonist came to his decision regarding his black box without me really getting to be as fully in on the reasoning and significance of that decision as I wanted to be. But still a good tale overall.
Exercise: Got in some pilates and some time on the elliptical strider.
Music: Another week of rehearsals and practicing, plus a concert Sunday afternoon amid all of the funeral-planning hecticness.
Writing Business: Two more rejections, two more stories back out the door. Dear 2009: I'd really like a sale now, please.
Writing: 1,600 more words on the zombie story last week, putting the total words so far just past the 5,000 mark. The end is in sight, though, so I think the first draft will come in under 10K. Man, it's been a while since a short story has taken me this darn long to write. On a positive note, last Wednesday was the best writing day I've had in some time. I plopped myself down in a coffee shop after my piano lesson--just me, my AlphaSmart, and my lunch, with no internet for distraction--and cranked out 1,000 of those 1,600 words .
Reading: Read three more stories in Prime Codex: "Sister of the Hedge" by Jim C. Hines (this is one of those stories that I'm going to have to read again in the future to decide what I really think of it, but the fascinating intersection of Sleeping Beauty and Christianity kept me hooked), "Rampion" by Mary Robinette Kowel (short but sweet), and "Salt of Judas" by my Odyssey classmate ericjamesstone (the premise of a magical deal with a devil-like character gave the story a slightly familiar feel, but it was well written and enjoyable, which isn't surprising since I've yet to meet a story of Eric's that I didn't like)
Exercise: My knee's feeling a lot better, so I spent this week gradually easing back to my normal exercise level. Well, except for Thursday, when I slacked. Stupid slug.
Music Stuff: The usual week full of rehearsals, piano lesson, and lots of practicing, particularly for a recital-type program I'm performing in tomorrow.
Writing: Close to a 1,000 more words on the zombie story this week. Not as much as I would have liked, which is my fault since I didn't spend as much time writing as I could have, but when I did write, I was at least cranking out more words than I had previously been doing. I have the feeling this story may end up being one of my longer ones. It's definitely going to live up to the "crappy first draft" moniker. But for me, fixing what's already down is the easier part of the process, so that's ok.
Writing Business: I spent far too much time prognostojectioning this week, particularly when I saw a bunch of response times reported for a horror market I'd love to crack. Here's hoping I haven't heard anything yet because the story's being seriously considered and not because things were lost in the Great Postal Submission Abyss.
Reading: Read two more stories in Prime Codex. "The Disenchantment of Kivron Ox-master" by Elaine Isaak was quite a fun one.
Exercise: Still taking it easy on my knee, which is now a lovely shade of yellow tinged with pink and purple. I've done a little bit of Pilates and a little bit on the elliptical strider, but not much else--unless Wii Sports counts.
Music: I think I've made up for taking it easy with the exercise by putting in more time on music. Piano lesson and choir rehearsal Wednesday night, followed by lots of time practicing piano and working on solo pieces for two upcoming performances.
Writing Business: Stories have been running in and out the door, making such a fuss that it feels like there have been more of them flitting about than there really are. Two stories have come since Tuesday night, and they both went right back out the door. Meanwhile, one of their siblings finally made up his mind about which slush pile he wanted to visit, and another story who had been moping around waiting for an appropriate market to open finally got to grab his stuff and head out the door.
On another writing business note, today I was pleased to find out that Flash Fiction Online has now been approved as a SFWA-qualifying market--not only because it's a great market, but because that means I now have a SFWA-qualifying credit to my name!
Writing: About 1,000 more words done on the zombie story. There unfortunately wasn't much time for writing the past few days, so most of that wordage was from earlier today. This story keeps surprising me, which has been fun. I didn't have much of a clue where I was going with it when I started, but I certainly didn't expect to have a half-zombified character sitting in the middle of post-apocalyptic Philadelphia singing an aria from Parsifal.
Speaking of music working its way into my writing...
Despite being a musician, for the longest time I found it difficult to write about music--I just didn't know how to put my experience of it into the right words. But when writing the first draft of my novel, it seemed appropraite to have one of my characters playing a lute in his first scene, and I realized that I finally did have the right words. Maybe those words had been there all along and I had only just learned how to tap into them. Whatever the case, it definitely opened up something in my brain, because music has been creeping into my writing more and more since then. My writing stable now has a story about a lyre player in a city where the arts have been outlawed (recently got a hold notice from ASIM for that one, so fingers crossed), a soldier who keeps his soul in a violin (that'll be getting a major rewrite in the near future), an immortal woman cursed to feed on the songs/spirits of other women (only recently started making the submission rounds), and now a poor opera-loving chap who's been bitten by a zombie.
I've named him Joe the Zombie.
And thanks and hugs and fluffy puppies and bunnies and things to those kind folks who have offered birthday wishes. When the zombie invasion comes, you'll be among those I save thanks to the skills and tips gleaned from another one of my birthday gifts, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.
And I found me some interesting part-time paying work that I should be starting this week. I'd tell you what it is, but then I'd have to kill you. OK, so maybe not, but I did have to sign a confidentiality agreement. I feel special, in a secretive sort of way.
On an unrelated note, I wish I could be as badass in real life as I am in my dreams. The other night I had a dream about a zombie invasion and I was being all Sigourney Weaver in Aliens with the flame thrower action. It was awesome.